by V. I. Lenin
The publication by a small group of “Left Communists” of their journal, Kommunist (No. 1, April 20, 1918), and of their “theses”, strikingly confirms my views expressed in the pamphlet The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government. There could not be better confirmation, in political literature, of the utter naïvete of the defence of petty-bourgeois sloppiness that is sometimes concealed by “Left” slogans. It is useful and necessary to deal with the arguments of “Left Communists” because they are characteristic of the period we are passing through. They show up with exceptional clarity the negative side of the “core” of this period. They are instructive, because the people we are dealing with are the best of those who have failed to understand the present period, people who by their knowledge and loyalty stand far, far above the ordinary representatives of the same mistaken views, namely, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries.
As a political magnitude, or as a group claiming to play a political role, the “Left Communist” group has presented its “Theses on the Present Situation”. It is a good Marxist custom to give a coherent and complete exposition of the principles underlying one’s views and tactics. And this good Marxist custom has helped to reveal the mistake committed by our “Lefts”, because the mere attempt to argue and not to declaim exposes the unsoundness of their argument.
The first thing that strikes one is the abundance of allusions, hints and evasions with regard to the old question of whether it was right to conclude the Brest Treaty. The “Lefts” dare not put the question in a straightforward manner. They flounder about in a comical fashion, pile argument on argument, fish for reasons, plead that “on the one hand” it may be so, but “on the other hand” it may not, their thoughts wander over all and sundry subjects, they try all the time not to see that they are defeating themselves. The “Lefts” are very careful to quote the figures: twelve votes at the Party Congress against peace, twenty-eight votes in favour, but they discreetly refrain from mentioning that of the hundreds of votes cast at the meeting of the Bolshevik group of the Congress of Soviets they obtained less than one-tenth. They have invented a “theory” that the peace was carried by “the exhausted and declassed elements”, while it was opposed by “the workers and peasants of the southern regions, where there was greater vitality in economic life and the supply of bread was more assured”. . . . Can one do anything but laugh at this? There is not a word about the voting at the All-Ukraine Congress of Soviets in favour of peace, nor about the social and class character of the typically petty-bourgeois and declassed political conglomeration in Russia who were opposed to peace (the Left Socialist-Revolutionary party). In an utterly childish manner, by means of amusing “scientific” explanations, they try to conceal their own bankruptcy, to conceal the facts, the mere review of which would show that it was precisely the declassed, intellectual “cream” of the party, the elite, who opposed the peace with slogans couched in revolutionary petty-bourgeois phrases, that it was precisely the mass of workers and exploited peasants who carried the peace.
Nevertheless, in spite of all the above-mentioned declarations and evasions of the “Lefts” on the question of war and peace, the plain and obvious truth manages to come to light. The authors of the theses are compelled to admit that “the conclusion of peace has for the time being weakened the imperialists’ attempts to make a deal on a world scale” (this is inaccurately formulated by the “Lefts”, but this is not the place to deal with inaccuracies). “The conclusion of peace has already caused the conflict between the imperialist powers to become more acute.”
[Graphic: Sigmar Polke.]
Now this is a fact. Here is something that has decisive significance. That is why those who opposed the conclusion of peace were unwittingly playthings in the hands of the imperialists and fell into the trap laid for them by the imperialists. For, until the world socialist revolution breaks out, until it embraces several countries and is strong enough to overcome international imperialism, it is the direct duty of the socialists who have conquered in one country (especially a backward one) not to accept battle against the giants of imperialism. Their duty is to try to avoid battle, to wait until the conflicts between the imperialists weaken them even more, and bring the revolution in other countries even nearer. Our “Lefts” did not understand this simple truth in January, February and March. Even now they are afraid of admitting it openly. But it comes to light through all their confused reasoning like “on the one hand it must be confessed, on the other hand one must admit”.
“During the coming spring and summer,” the “Lefts” write in their theses, “the collapse of the imperialist system must begin. In the event of a victory for German imperialism in the present phase of the war this collapse can only be postponed, but it will then express itself in even more acute forms.”
This formulation is even more childishly inaccurate despite its playing at science. It is natural for children to “understand” science to mean something that can determine in what year, spring, summer, autumn or winter the “collapse must begin”.
These are ridiculous, vain attempts to ascertain what cannot be ascertained. No serious politician will ever say when this or that collapse of a “system” “must begin” (the more so that the collapse of the system has already begun, and it is now a question of the moment when the outbreak of revolution in particular countries will begin). But an indisputable truth forces its way through this childishly helpless formulation, namely, the outbreaks of revolution in other, more advanced, countries are nearer now, a month since the beginning of the “respite” which followed the conclusion of peace, than they were a month or six weeks ago.
It follows that the peace supporters were absolutely right, and their stand has been justified by the course of events. They were right in having drummed into the minds of the lovers of ostentation that one must be able to calculate the balance of forces and not help the imperialists by making the battle against socialism easier for them when socialism is still weak, and when the chances of the battle are manifestly against socialism.
Our “Left” Communists, however, who are also fond of calling themselves “proletarian” Communists, because there is very little that is proletarian about them and very much that is petty-bourgeois, are incapable of giving thought to the balance of forces, to calculating it. This is the core of Marxism and Marxist tactics, but they disdainfully brush aside the “core” with “proud” phrases such as: “. . . That the masses have become firmly imbued with an inactive peace mentality is an objective fact of the political situation. . . .”
What a gem! After three years of the most agonising and reactionary war, the people, thanks to Soviet power and its correct tactics, which never lapsed into mere phrase-making, have obtained a very, very brief, insecure and far from sufficient respite. The “Left” intellectual striplings, however, with the magnificence of a self-infatuated Narcissus, profoundly declare “that the masses [???] have become firmly imbued [!!!] with an inactive [!!!???] peace mentality”. Was I not right when I said at the Party Congress that the paper or journal of the “Lefts” ought to have been called not Kommunist but Szlachcic [a Polish nobleman —Ed.].
Can a Communist with the slightest understanding of the mentality and the conditions of life of the toiling and exploited people descend to the point of view of the typical declassed petty-bourgeois intellectual with the mental outlook of a noble or szlachcic, which declares that a “peace mentality” is “inactive” and believes that the brandishing of a cardboard sword is “activity”? For our “Lefts” merely brandish a cardboard sword when they ignore the universally known fact, of which the war in the Ukraine has served as an additional proof, that peoples utterly exhausted by three years of butchery cannot go on fighting without a respite; and that war, if it cannot be organised on a national scale, very often creates a mentality of disintegration peculiar to petty proprietors, instead of the iron discipline of the proletariat. Every page of Kommunist shows that our “Lefts” have no idea of iron proletarian discipline and how it is achieved, that they are thoroughly imbued with the mentality of the declassed petty-bourgeois intellectual.
Perhaps all these phrases of the “Lefts” about war can be put down to mere childish exuberance, which, moreover, concerns the past, and therefore has not a shadow of political significance? This is the argument some people put up in defence of our “Lefts”. But this is wrong. Anyone aspiring to political leadership must be able to think out political problems, and lack of this ability converts the “Lefts” into spineless preachers of a policy of vacillation, which objectively can have only one result, namely, by their vacillation the “Lefts” are helping the imperialists to provoke the Russian Soviet Republic into a battle that will obviously be to its disadvantage, they are helping the imperialists to draw us into a snare. Listen to this:
. . . The Russian workers’ revolution cannot save itself’ by abandoning the path of world revolution, by continually avoiding battle and yielding to the pressure of international capital, by making concessions to ’home capital’.
From this point of view it is necessary to adopt a determined class international policy which will unite international revolutionary propaganda by word and deed, and to strengthen the organic connection with international socialism (and not with the international bourgeoisie). . . .
I shall deal separately with the thrusts at home policy contained in this passage. But examine this riot of phrase-making—and timidity in deeds—in the sphere of foreign policy. What tactics are binding at the present time on all who do not wish to be tools of imperialist provocation, and who do not wish to walk into the snare? Every politician must give a clear, straightforward reply to this question. Our Party’s reply is well known. At the present moment we must retreat and avoid battle. Our “Lefts” dare not contradict this and shoot into the air: “A determined class international policy”!!
This is deceiving the people. If you want to fight now, say so openly. If you don’t wish to retreat now, say so openly. Otherwise, in your objective role, you are a tool of imperialist provocation. And your subjective “mentality” is that of a frenzied petty bourgeois who swaggers and blusters but senses perfectly well that the proletarian is right in retreating and in trying to retreat in an organised way. He senses that the proletarian is right in arguing that because we lack strength we must retreat (before Western and Eastern imperialism) even as far as the Urals, for in this lies the only chance of playing for time while the revolution in the West matures, the revolution which is not “bound” (despite the twaddle of the “Lefts”) to begin in “spring or summer”, but which is coming nearer and becoming more probable every month.
The “Lefts” have no policy of their “own”. They dare not declare that retreat at the present moment is unnecessary. They twist and turn, play with words, substitute the question of “continuously” avoiding battle for the question of avoiding battle at the present moment. They blow soap bubbles such as “international revolutionary propaganda by deed”!! What does this mean?
It can only mean one of two things: either it is mere Nozdryovism, or it means an offensive war to overthrow international imperialism. Such nonsense cannot be uttered openly, and that is why the “Left” Communists are obliged to take refuge from the derision of every politically conscious proletarian behind high-sounding and empty phrases. They hope the inattentive reader will not notice the real meaning of the phrase “international revolutionary propaganda by deed”.
The flaunting of high-sounding phrases is characteristic of the declassed petty-bourgeois intellectuals. The organised proletarian Communists will certainly punish this “habit” with nothing less than derision and expulsion from all responsible posts. The people must be told the bitter truth simply, clearly and in a straightforward manner: it is possible, and even probable, that the war party will again get the upper hand in Germany (that is, an offensive against us will commence at once), and that Germany together with Japan, by official agreement or by tacit understanding, will partition and strangle us. Our tactics, if we do not want to listen to the ranters, must be to wait, procrastinate, avoid battle and retreat. If we shake off the ranters and “brace ourselves” by creating genuinely iron, genuinely proletarian, genuinely communist discipline, we shall have a good chance of gaining many months. And then by retreating even, if the worst comes to the worst, to the Urals, we shall make it easier for our ally (the international proletariat) to come to our aid, to “catch up” (to use the language of sport) the distance between the beginning of revolutionary outbreaks and revolution.
These, and these alone, are the tactics which can in fact strengthen the connection between one temporarily isolated section of international socialism and the other sections. But to tell the truth, all that your arguments lead to, dear “Left Communists”, is the “strengthening of the organic connection” between one high-sounding phrase and another. A bad sort of “organic connection”, this!
I shall enlighten you, my amiable friends, as to why such disaster overtook you. It is because you devote more effort to learning by heart and committing to memory revolutionary slogans than to thinking them out. This leads you to write “the defence of the socialist fatherland” in quotation marks, which are probably meant to signify your attempts at being ironical, but which really prove that you are muddleheads. You are accustomed to regard “defencism” as something base and despicable; you have learned this and committed it to memory. You have learned this by heart so thoroughly that some of you have begun talking nonsense to the effect that defence of the fatherland in an imperialist epoch is impermissible (as a matter of fact, it is impermissible only in an imperialist, reactionary war, waged by the bourgeoisie). But you have not thought out why and when “defencism” is abominable.
To recognise defence of the fatherland means recognising the legitimacy and justice of war. Legitimacy and justice from what point of view? Only from the point of view of the socialist, proletariat and its struggle for its emancipation. We do not recognise any other point of view. If war is waged by the exploiting class with the object of strengthening its rule as a class, such a war is a criminal war, and “defencism” in such a war is a base betrayal of socialism. If war is waged by the proletariat after it has conquered the bourgeoisie in its own country, and is waged with the object of strengthening and developing socialism, such a war is legitimate and “holy”.
We have been “defencists” since October 20, 1917. I have said this more than once very definitely, and you dare not deny this. It is precisely in the interests of “strengthening the connection” with international socialism that we are in duty bound to defend our socialist fatherland. Those who treat frivolously the defence of the country in which the proletariat has already achieved victory are the ones who destroy the connection with international socialism. When we were the representatives of an oppressed class we did not adopt a frivolous attitude towards defence of the fatherland in an imperialist war. We opposed such defence on principle. Now that we have become representatives of the ruling class, which has begun to organise socialism, we demand that everybody adopt a serious attitude towards defence of the country. And adopting a serious attitude towards defence of the country means thoroughly preparing for it, and strictly calculating the balance of forces. If our forces are obviously small, the best means of defense is retreat into the interior of the country (anyone who regards this as an artificial formula, made up to suit the needs of the moment, should read old Clausewitz, one of the greatest authorities on military matters, concerning the lessons of history to be learned in this connection). The “Left Communists”, however, do not give the slightest indication that they understand the significance of the question of the balance of forces.
When we were opposed to defencism on principle we were justified in holding up to ridicule those who wanted to “save” their fatherland, ostensibly in the interests of socialism. When we gained the right to be proletarian defencists the whole question was radically altered. It has become our duty to calculate with the utmost accuracy the different forces involved, to weigh with the utmost care the chances of our ally (the international proletariat) being able to come to our aid in time. It is in the interest of capital to destroy its enemy (the revolutionary proletariat) bit by bit, before the workers in all countries have united (actually united, i.e., by beginning the revolution). It is in our interest to do all that is possible, to take advantage of the slightest opportunity to postpone the decisive battle until the moment (or until after the moment) the revolutionary workers’ contingents have united in a single great international army.
We shall pass on to the misfortunes of our “Left” Communists in the sphere of home policy. It is difficult to read the following phrases in the theses on the present situation without smiling. “. . . The systematic use of the remaining means of production is conceivable only if a most determined policy of socialisation is pursued” . . . “not to capitulate to the bourgeoisie and its petty-bourgeois intellectualist servitors, but to rout the bourgeoisie and to put down sabotage completely. . . .”
Dear “Left Communists”, how determined they are, but how little thinking they display. What do they mean by pursuing “a most determined policy of socialisation”?
One may or may not be determined on the question of nationalisation or confiscation, but the whole point is that even the greatest possible “determination” in the world is not enough to pass from nationalisation and confiscation to socialisation. The misfortune of our “Lefts” is that by their naïve, childish combination of the words “most determined policy of socialisation” they reveal their utter failure to understand the crux of the question, the crux of the “present” situation. The misfortune of our “Lefts” is that they have missed the very essence of the “present situation”, the transition from confiscation (the carrying out of which requires above all determination in a politician) to socialisation (the carrying out of which requires a different quality in the revolutionary).
Yesterday, the main task of the moment was, as determinedly as possible, to nationalise, confiscate, beat down and crush the bourgeoisie, and put down sabotage. Today, only a blind man could fail to see that we have nationalised, confiscated, beaten down and put down more than we have had time to count. The difference between socialisation and simple confiscation is that confiscation can be carried out by “determination” alone, without the ability to calculate and distribute properly, whereas socialisation cannot be brought about without this ability.
The historical service we have rendered is that yesterday we were determined (and we shall be tomorrow) in confiscating, in beating down the bourgeoisie, in putting down sabotage. To write about this today in “theses on the present situation” is to fix one’s eyes on the past and to fail to understand the transition to the future.
“. . . To put down sabotage completely. . . .” What a task they have found! Our saboteurs are quite sufficiently “put down”. What we lack is something quite different. We lack the proper calculation for saboteurs to set to work and where to place them. We lack the organisation of our own forces that is needed for, say, one Bolshevik leader or controller to be able to supervise a hundred saboteurs who are now coming into our service. When that is how matters stand, to flaunt such phrases as “a most determined policy of socialisation”, “routing”, and “completely putting down” is just missing the mark. It is typical of the petty-bourgeois revolutionary not to notice that routing, putting down, etc., is not enough for socialism. It is sufficient for a small proprietor enraged against a big proprietor. But no proletarian revolutionary would ever fall into such error.
If the words we have quoted provoke a smile, the following discovery made by the “Left Communists” will provoke nothing short of Homeric laughter. According to them, under the “Bolshevik deviation to the right” the Soviet Republic is threatened with “evolution towards state capitalism”. They have really frightened us this time! And with what gusto these “Left Communists” repeat this threatening revelation in their theses and articles. . . .
It has not occurred to them that state capitalism would be a step forward as compared with the present state of affairs in our Soviet Republic. If in approximately six months’ time state capitalism became established in our Republic, this would be a great success and a sure guarantee that within a year socialism will have gained a permanently firm hold and will have become invincible in our country.
I can imagine with what noble indignation a “Left Communist” will recoil from these words, and what “devastating criticism” he will make to the workers against the “Bolshevik deviation to the right”. What! Transition to state capitalism in the Soviet Socialist Republic would be a step forward?. . . Isn’t this the betrayal of socialism?
Here we come to the root of the economic mistake of the “Left Communists”. And that is why we must deal with this point in greater detail.
Firstly, the “Left Communists” do not understand what kind of transition it is from capitalism to socialism that gives us the right and the grounds to call our country the Socialist Republic of Soviets.
Secondly, they reveal their petty-bourgeois mentality precisely by not recognising the petty-bourgeois element as the principal enemy of socialism in our country.
Thirdly, in making a bugbear of “state capitalism”, they betray their failure to understand that the Soviet state differs from the bourgeois state economically.
Let us examine these three points.
No one, I think, in studying the question of the economic system of Russia, has denied its transitional character. Nor, I think, has any Communist denied that the term Socialist Soviet Republic implies the determination of Soviet power to achieve the transition to socialism, and not that the new economic system is recognised as a socialist order.
But what does the word “transition” mean? Does it not mean, as applied to an economy, that the present system contains elements, particles, fragments of both capitalism and socialism? Everyone will admit that it does. But not all who admit this take the trouble to consider what elements actually constitute the various socio-economic structures that exist in Russia at the present time. And this is the crux of the question.
Let us enumerate these elements:
1) patriarchal, i.e., to a considerable extent natural, peasant farming;
2) small commodity production (this includes the majority of those peasants who sell their grain);
3) private capitalism;
4) state capitalism;
Russia is so vast and so varied that all these different types of socio-economic structures are intermingled. This is what constitutes the specific features of the situation.
The question arises: what elements predominate? Clearly in a small-peasant country, the petty-bourgeois element predominates and it must predominate, for the great majority of those working the land are small commodity producers. The shell of our state capitalism (grain monopoly, state controlled entrepreneurs and traders, bourgeois co-operators) is pierced now in one place, now in another by profiteers, the chief object of profiteering being grain.
It is in this field that the main struggle is being waged. Between what elements is this struggle being waged if we are to speak in terms of economic categories such as “state capitalism”? Between the fourth and the fifth in the order in which I have just enumerated them. Of course not. It is not state capitalism that is at war with socialism, but the petty bourgeoisie plus private capitalism fighting together against both state capitalism and socialism. The petty bourgeoisie oppose every kind of state interference, accounting and control, whether it be state capitalist or state socialist. This is an absolutely unquestionable fact of reality, and the root of the economic mistake of the “Left Communists” is that they have failed to understand it. The profiteer, the commercial racketeer, the disrupter of monopoly—these are our principal “internal” enemies, the enemies of the economic measures of Soviet power. A hundred and twenty-five years ago it might have been excusable for the French petty bourgeoisie, the most ardent and sincere revolutionaries, to try to crush the profiteer by executing a few of the “chosen” and by making thunderous declamations. Today, however, the purely rhetorical attitude to this question assumed by some Left Socialist-Revolutionaries can rouse nothing but disgust and revulsion in every politically conscious revolutionary. We know perfectly well that the economic basis of profiteering is both the small proprietors, who are exceptionally widespread in Russia, and private capitalism, of which every petty bourgeois is an agent. We know that the million tentacles of this petty-bourgeois hydra now and again encircle various sections of the workers, that, instead of state monopoly, profiteering forces its way into every pore of our social and economic organism.
Those who fail to see this show by their blindness that they are slaves of petty-bourgeois prejudices. This is precisely the case with our “Left Communists”, who in words (and of course in their deepest convictions) are merciless enemies of the petty bourgeoisie, while in deeds they help only the petty bourgeoisie, serve only this section of the population and express only its point of view by fighting—in April 1918!!—against . . . “state capitalism”. They are wide off the mark!
The petty bourgeoisie have money put away, the few thousand that they made during the war by “honest” and especially by dishonest means. They are the characteristic economic type that serves as the basis of profiteering and private capitalism. Money is a certificate entitling the possessor to receive social wealth; and a vast section of small proprietors, numbering millions, cling to this certificate and conceal it from the “state”. They do not believe in socialism or communism, and “mark time” until the proletarian storm blows over. Either we subordinate the petty bourgeoisie to our control and accounting (we can do this if we organise the poor, that is, the majority of the population or semi-proletarians, around the politically conscious proletarian vanguard), or they will overthrow our workers’ power as surely and as inevitably as the revolution was overthrown by the Napoleons and Cavaignacs who sprang from this very soil of petty proprietorship. This is how the question stands. Only the Left Socialist Revolutionaries fail to see this plain and evident truth through their mist of empty phrases about the “toiling” peasants. But who takes these phrase-mongering Left Socialist-Revolutionaries seriously?
The petty bourgeois who hoards his thousands is an enemy of state capitalism. He wants to employ his thousands just for himself, against the poor, in opposition to any kind of state control. And the sum total of these thousands, amounting to many thousands of millions, forms the base for profiteering, which undermines our socialist construction. Let us assume that a certain number of workers produce in a few days values equal to 1,000. Let us then assume that 200 of this total vanishes owing to petty profiteering, various kinds of embezzlement and the “evasion” by the small proprietors of Soviet decrees and regulations. Every politically conscious worker will say that if better order and organisation could be obtained at the price of 300 out of the 1,000 he would willingly give 300 instead of 200, for it will be quite easy under Soviet power to reduce this “tribute” later on to, say, 100 or 50, once order and organisation are established and once the petty-bourgeois disruption of state monopoly is completely overcome.
This simple illustration in figures, which I have deliberately simplified to the utmost in order to make it absolutely clear, explains the present correlation of state capitalism and socialism. The workers hold state power and have every legal opportunity of “taking” the whole thousand, without giving up a single kopek, except for socialist purposes. This legal opportunity, which rests upon the actual transition of power to the workers, is an element of socialism.
But in many ways, the small proprietary and private capitalist element undermines this legal position, drags in profiteering, hinders the execution of Soviet decrees. State capitalism would be a gigantic step forward even if we paid more than we are paying at present (I took a numerical example deliberately to bring this out more sharply), because it is worth while paying for “tuition”, because it is useful for the workers, because victory over disorder, economic ruin and laxity is the most important thing; because the continuation of the anarchy of small ownership is the greatest, the most serious danger, and it will certainly be our ruin (unless we overcome it), whereas not only will the payment of a heavier tribute to state capitalism not ruin us, it will lead us to socialism by the surest road. When the working class has learned how to defend the state system against the anarchy of small ownership, when it has learned to organise large-scale production on a national scale, along state capitalist lines, it will hold, if I may use the expression, all the trump cards, and the consolidation of socialism will be assured.
In the first place, economically, state capitalism is immeasurably superior to our present economic system.
In the second place, there is nothing terrible in it for Soviet power, for the Soviet state is a state in which the power of the workers and the poor is assured. The “Left Communists” failed to understand these unquestionable truths, which, of course, a “Left Socialist-Revolutionary”, who cannot connect any ideas on political economy in his head in general, will never understand, but which every Marxist must admit. It is not even worth while arguing with a Left Socialist-Revolutionary. It is enough to point to him as a “repulsive example” of a windbag. But the “Left Communists” must be argued with because it is Marxists who are making a mistake, and an analysis of their mistake will help the working class to find the true road.
[Graphic: Otto Dix.]
To make things even clearer, let us first of all take the most concrete example of state capitalism. Everybody knows what this example is. It is Germany. Here we have “the last word” in modern large-scale capitalist engineering and planned organisation, subordinated to Junker-bourgeois imperialism. Cross out the words in italics, and in place of the militarist, Junker, bourgeois, imperialist state put also a state, but of a different social type, of a different class content—a Soviet state, that is, a proletarian state, and you will have the sum total of the conditions necessary for socialism.
Socialism is inconceivable without large-scale capitalist engineering based on the latest discoveries of modern science. It is inconceivable without planned state organisation, which keeps tens of millions of people to the strictest observance of a unified standard in production and distribution. We Marxists have always spoken of this, and it is not worth while wasting two seconds talking to people who do not understand even this (anarchists and a good half of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries).
At the same time socialism is inconceivable unless the proletariat is the ruler of the state. This also is ABC. And history (which nobody, except Menshevik blockheads of the first order, ever expected to bring about “complete” socialism smoothly, gently, easily and simply) has taken such a peculiar course that it has given birth in 1918 to two unconnected halves of socialism existing side by side like two future chickens in the single shell of international imperialism. In 1918 Germany and Russia have become the most striking embodiment of the material realisation of the economic, the productive and the socio-economic conditions for socialism, on the one hand, and the political conditions, on the other.
A successful proletarian revolution in Germany would immediately and very easily smash any shell of imperialism (which unfortunately is made of the best steel, and hence cannot be broken by the efforts of any . . . chicken) and would bring about the victory of world socialism for certain, without any difficulty, or with slight difficulty—if, of course, by “difficulty” we mean difficult on a world historical scale, and not in the parochial philistine sense.
While the revolution in Germany is still slow in “coming forth”, our task is to study the state capitalism of the Germans, to spare no effort in copying it and not shrink from adopting dictatorial methods to hasten the copying of it. Our task is to hasten this copying even more than Peter hastened the copying of Western culture by barbarian Russia, and we must not hesitate to use barbarous methods in fighting barbarism. If there are anarchists and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries (I recall off-hand the speeches of Karelin and Ghe at the meeting of the Central Executive Committee) who indulge in Narcissus-like reflections and say that it is unbecoming for us revolutionaries to “take lessons” from German imperialism, there is only one thing we can say in reply: the revolution that took these people seriously would perish irrevocably (and deservedly).
At present, petty-bourgeois capitalism prevails in Russia, and it is one and the same road that leads from it to both large-scale state capitalism and to socialism, through one and the same intermediary station called “national accounting and control of production and distribution”. Those who fail to understand this are committing an unpardonable mistake in economics. Either they do not know the facts of life, do not see what actually exists and are unable to look the truth in the face, or they confine themselves to abstractly comparing “capitalism” with “socialism” and fail to study the concrete forms and stages of the transition that is taking place in our country. Let it be said in parenthesis that this is the very theoretical mistake which misled the best people in the Novaya Zhizn and Vperyod camp. The worst and the mediocre of these, owing to their stupidity and spinelessness, tag along behind the bourgeoisie, of whom they stand in awe. The best of them have failed to understand that it was not without reason that the teachers of socialism spoke of a whole period of transition from capitalism to socialism and emphasised the “prolonged birth pangs” of the new society. And this new society is again an abstraction which can come into being only by passing through a series of varied, imperfect concrete attempts to create this or that socialist state.
It is because Russia cannot advance from the economic situation now existing here without traversing the ground which is common to state capitalism and to socialism (national accounting and control) that the attempt to frighten others as well as themselves with “evolution towards state capitalism” (Kommunist No. 1, p. 8, col. 1) is utter theoretical nonsense. This is letting one’s thoughts wander away from the true road of “evolution”, and failing to understand what this road is. In practice, it is equivalent to pulling us back to small proprietary capitalism.
In order to convince the reader that this is not the first time I have given this “high” appreciation of state capitalism and that I gave it before the Bolsheviks seized power I take the liberty of quoting the following passage from my pamphlet The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It, written in September 1917:
. . . Try to substitute for the Junker-capitalist state, for the landowner-capitalist state, a revolutionary-democratic state, i.e., a state which in a revolutionary way abolishes all privileges and does not fear to introduce the fullest democracy in a revolutionary way. You will find that, given a really revolutionary-democratic state, state-monopoly capitalism inevitably and unavoidably implies a step, and more than one step, towards socialism!
. . For socialism is merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly.
. . . State-monopoly capitalism is a complete material preparation for socialism, the threshold of socialism, a rung on the ladder of history between which and the rung called socialism there are no intermediate rungs” (pages 27 and 28).
Please note that this was written when Kerensky was in power, that we are discussing not the dictatorship of the proletariat, not the socialist state, but the “revolutionary-democratic” state. Is it not clear that the higher we stand on this political ladder, the more completely we incorporate the socialist state and the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviets, the less ought we to fear “state capitalism”? Is it not clear that from the material, economic and productive point of view, we are not yet on “the threshold” of socialism? Is it not clear that we cannot pass through the door of socialism without crossing “the threshold” we have not yet reached?
From whatever side we approach the question, only one conclusion can be drawn: the argument of the “Left Communists” about the “state capitalism” which is alleged to be threatening us is an utter mistake in economics and is evident proof that they are complete slaves of petty-bourgeois ideology.
The following is also extremely instructive.
When we argued with Comrade Bukharin in the Central Executive Committee [see present edition, Volume. 25, pages 358, 359.—Ed.] he declared, among other things, that on the question of high salaries for specialists “we” (evidently meaning the “Left Communists”) were “more to the right than Lenin”, for in this case “we” saw no deviation from principle, bearing in mind Marx’s words that under certain conditions it is more expedient for the working class to “buy out the whole lot of them” (namely, the whole lot of capitalists, i.e., to buy from the bourgeoisie the land, factories, works and other means of production).
This extremely interesting statement shows, in the first place, that Bukharin is head and shoulders above the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and anarchists, that he is by no means hopelessly stuck in the mud of phrase-making, but on the contrary is making efforts to think out the concrete difficulties of the transition—the painful and difficult transition—from capitalism to socialism.
In the second place, this statement makes Bukharin’s mistake still more glaring.
Let us consider Marx’s idea carefully.
Marx was talking about the Britain of the seventies of the last century, about the culminating point in the development of pre-monopoly capitalism. At that time Britain was a country in which militarism and bureaucracy were less pronounced than in any other, a country in which there was the greatest possibility of a “peaceful” victory for socialism in the sense of the workers “buying out” the bourgeoisie. And Marx said that under certain conditions the workers would certainly not refuse to buy out the bourgeoisie. Marx did not commit himself, or the future leaders of the socialist revolution, to matters of form, to ways and means of bringing about the revolution. He understood perfectly well that a vast number of new problems would arise, that the whole situation would change in the course of the revolution, and that the situation would change radically and often in the course of revolution.
Well, and what about Soviet Russia? Is it not clear that after the seizure of power by the proletariat and after the crushing of the exploiters’ armed resistance and sabotage, certain conditions prevail which correspond to those which might have existed in Britain half a century ago had a peaceful transition to socialism begun there? The subordination of the capitalists to the workers in Britain would have been assured at that time owing to the following circumstances: (1) the absolute preponderance of workers, of proletarians, in the population owing to the absence of a peasantry (in Britain in the seventies there was hope of an extremely rapid spread of socialism among agricultural labourers); (2) the excellent organisation of the proletariat in trade unions (Britain was at that time the leading country in the world in this respect); (3) the comparatively high level of culture of the proletariat, which had been trained by centuries of development of political liberty; (4) the old habit of the well-organised British capitalists of settling political and economic questions by compromise—at that time the British capitalists were better organised than the capitalists of any country in the world (this superiority has now passed to Germany). These were the circumstances which at that time gave rise to the idea that the peaceful subjugation of the British capitalists by the workers was possible.
In our country, at the present time, this subjugation is assured by certain premises of fundamental significance (the victory in October and the suppression, from October to February, of the capitalists’ armed resistance and sabotage). But instead of the absolute preponderance of workers, of proletarians, in the population, and instead of a high degree of organisation among them, the important factor of victory in Russia was the support the proletarians received from the poor peasants and those who had experienced sudden ruin. Finally, we have neither a high degree of culture nor the habit of compromise. If these concrete conditions are carefully considered, it will become clear that we can and ought to employ two methods simultaneously. On the one hand we must ruthlessly suppress the uncultured capitalists who refuse to have anything to do with “state capitalism” or to consider any form of compromise, and who continue by means of profiteering, by bribing the poor peasants, etc., to hinder the realisation of the measures taken by the Soviets. On the other hand, we must use the method of compromise, or of buying off the cultured capitalists who agree to “state capitalism”, who are capable of putting it into practice and who are useful to the proletariat as intelligent and experienced organisers of the largest types of enterprises, which actually supply products to tens of millions of people.
Bukharin is an extremely well-read Marxist economist. He therefore remembered that Marx was profoundly right when he taught the workers the importance of preserving the organisation of large-scale production, precisely for the purpose of facilitating the transition to socialism. Marx taught that (as an exception, and Britain was then an exception) the idea was conceivable of paying the capitalists well, of buying them off, if the circumstances were such as to compel the capitalists to submit peacefully and to come over to socialism in a cultured and organised fashion, provided they were paid.
But Bukharin went astray because he did not go deep enough into the specific features of the situation in Russia at the present time—an exceptional situation when we, the Russian proletariat, are in advance of any Britain or any Germany as regards our political order, as regards the strength of the workers’ political power, but are behind the most backward West-European country as regards organising a good state capitalism, as regards our level of culture and the degree of material and productive preparedness for the “introduction” of socialism. Is it not clear that the specific nature of the present situation creates the need for a specific type of “buying out” which the workers must offer to the most cultured, the most skilled, the most capable organisers among the capitalists who are ready to enter the service of Soviet power and to help honestly in organising “state” production on the largest possible scale? Is it not clear that in this specific situation we must make, every effort to avoid two mistakes, both of which are of a petty-bourgeois nature? On the one hand, it would be a fatal mistake to declare that since there is a discrepancy between our economic “forces” and our political strength, it “follows” that we should not have seized power. Such an argument can be advanced only by a “man in a muffler”, who forgets that there will always be such a “discrepancy”, that it always exists in the development of nature as well as in the development of society, that only by a series of attempts—each of which, taken by itself, will be one sided and will suffer from certain inconsistencies—will complete socialism be created by the revolutionary co-operation of the proletarians of all countries.
On the other hand, it would be an obvious mistake to give free rein to ranters and phrase-mongers who allow themselves to be carried away by the “dazzling” revolutionary spirit, but who are incapable of sustained, thoughtful and deliberate revolutionary work which takes into account the most difficult stages of transition.
Fortunately, the history of the development of the revolutionary parties and of the struggle that Bolshevism waged against them has left us a heritage of sharply defined types, of which the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and anarchists are striking examples of bad revolutionaries. They are now shouting hysterically, choking and shouting themselves hoarse, against the “compromise” of the “Right Bolsheviks”. But they are incapable of thinking what is bad in “compromise”, and why “compromise” has been justly condemned by history and the course of the revolution.
Compromise in Kerensky’s time meant the surrender of power to the imperialist bourgeoisie, and the question of power is the fundamental question of every revolution. Compromise by a section of the Bolsheviks in October November 1917 either meant that they feared the proletariat seizing power or wished to share power equally, not only with “unreliable fellow-travellers” like the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, but also with the enemies, with the Chernovists and the Mensheviks. The latter would inevitably have hindered us in fundamental matters, such as the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, the ruthless suppression of the Bogayevskys, the universal setting up of the Soviet institutions, and in every act of confiscation.
Now power has been seized, retained and consolidated in the hands of a single party, the party of the proletariat, even without the “unreliable fellow-travellers”. To speak of compromise at the present time when there is no question, and can be none, of sharing power, of renouncing the dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, is merely to repeat, parrot-fashion, words which have been learned by heart but not understood. To describe as “compromise” the fact that, having arrived at a situation when we can and must rule the country, we try to win over to our side, not grudging the cost, the most skilled people capitalism has trained and to take them into our service against small proprietary disintegration, reveals a total incapacity to think out the economic tasks of socialist construction.
Therefore, while it is to Comrade Bukharin’s credit that on the Central Executive Committee he “felt ashamed” of the “service” he had been rendered by Karelin and Ghe, nevertheless, as far as the “Left Communist” trend is concerned, the reference to their political comrades-in-arms still remains a serious warning.
Take, for example, Znamya Truda, the organ of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, of April 25, 1918, which proudly declares, “The present position of our party coincides with that of another trend in Bolshevism (Bukharin, Pokrovsky and others)”. Or take the Menshevik Vperyod of the same date, which contains among other articles the following “thesis” by the notorious Menshevik Isuv:
The policy of Soviet power, from the very outset devoid of a genuinely proletarian character, has lately pursued more and more openly a course of compromise with the bourgeoisie and has assumed an obviously anti-working class character. On the pretext of nationalising industry, they are pursuing a policy of establishing industrial trusts, and on the pretext of restoring the productive forces of the country, they are attempting to abolish the eight hour day, to introduce piece-work and the Taylor system, black lists and victimisation. This policy threatens to deprive the proletariat of its most important economic gains and to make it a victim of unrestricted exploitation by the bourgeoisie.
Isn’t it marvellous?
Kerensky’s friends, who, together with him, conducted an imperialist war for the sake of the secret treaties, which promised annexations to the Russian capitalists, the colleagues of Tsereteli, who, on June 11, threatened to disarm the workers, the Lieberdans, who screened the rule of the bourgeoisie with high-sounding phrases—these are the very people who accuse Soviet power of “compromising with the bourgeoisie”, of “establishing trusts” (that is, of establishing “state capitalism”!), of introducing the Taylor system.
Indeed, the Bolsheviks ought to present Isuv with a medal, and his thesis ought to be exhibited in every workers’ club and union as an example of the provocative speeches of the bourgeoisie. The workers know these Lieberdans, Tseretelis and Isuvs very well now. They know them from experience, and it would be extremely useful indeed for the workers to think over the reason why such lackeys of the bourgeoisie should incite the workers to resist the Taylor system and the “establishment of trusts”.
Class-conscious workers will carefully compare the “thesis” of Isuv, a friend of the Lieberdans and the Tseretelis, with the following thesis of the “Left Communists”:
The introduction of labour discipline in connection with the restoration of capitalist management of industry cannot considerably increase the productivity of labour, but it will diminish the class initiative, activity and organisation of the proletariat. It threatens to enslave the worklng class; it will rouse discontent among the backward elements as well as among the vanguard of the proletariat. In order to implement this system in the face of the hatred prevailing among the proletariat against the ’capitalist saboteurs’, the Communist Party would have to rely on the petty bourgeoisie, as against the workers, and in this way would ruin itself as the party of the proletariat (Kommunist No. 1, p. 8, col. 2).
This is most striking proof that the “Lefts” have fallen into the trap, have allowed themselves to be provoked by the Isuvs and the other Judases of capitalism. It serves as a good lesson for the workers, who know that it is precisely the vanguard of the proletariat which stands for the introduction of labour discipline, and that it is precisely the petty bourgeoisie which is doing its utmost to disrupt this discipline. Speeches such as the thesis of the “Lefts” quoted above are a terrible disgrace and imply the complete renunciation of communism in practice and complete desertion to the camp of the petty bourgeoisie.
[Graphic: Camille Rose García.]
“In connection with the restoration of capitalist management”—these are the words with which the “Left Communists” hope to “defend themselves”. A perfectly useless defence, because, in the first place, when putting “management” in the hands of capitalists Soviet power appoints workers’ Commissars or workers’ committees who watch the manager’s every step, who learn from his management experience and who not only have the right to appeal against his orders, but can secure his removal through the organs of Soviet power. In the second place, “management” is entrusted to capitalists only for executive functions while at work, the conditions of which are determined by the Soviet power, by which they may be abolished or revised. In the third place, “management” is entrusted by the Soviet power to capitalists not as capitalists, but as technicians or organisers for higher salaries. And the workers know very well that ninety-nine per cent of the organisers and first-class technicians of really Iarge-scale and giant enterprises, trusts or other establishments belong to the capitalist class. But it is precisely these people whom we, the proletarian party, must appoint to “manage” the labour process and the organisation of production, for there are no other people who have practical experience in this matter. The workers, having grown out of the infancy when they could have been misled by “Left” phrases or petty-bourgeois loose thinking, are advancing towards socialism precisely through the capitalist management of trusts, through gigantic machine industry, through enterprises which have a turnover of several millions per year—only through such a system of production and such enterprises. The workers are not petty bourgeois. They are not afraid of large-scale “state capitalism”, they prize it as their proletarian weapon which their Soviet power will use against small proprietary disintegration and disorganisation.
This is incomprehensible only to the declassed and consequently thoroughly petty-bourgeois intelligentsia, typified among the “Left Communists” by Osinsky, when he writes in their journal: “. . . The whole initiative in the organisation and management of any enterprise will belong to the ‘organisers of the trusts’. We are not going to teach them, or make rank-and-file workers out of them, we are going to learn from them” (Kommunist No. 1, p. 14, col. 2).
The attempted irony in this passage is aimed at my words “learn” socialism from the ‘organisers of the trusts’.
Osinsky thinks this is funny. He wants to make “rank and-file workers” out of the organisers of the trusts. If this had been written by a man of the age of which the poet wrote “But fifteen years, not more?. . .“ there would have been nothing surprising about it. But it is somewhat strange to hear such things from a Marxist who has learned that socialism is impossible unless it makes use of the achievements of the engineering and culture created-by large scale capitalism. There is no trace of Marxism in this.
[Graphic: Alexei Vella.]
No. Only those are worthy of the name of Communists who understand that it is impossible to create or introduce socialism without learning from the organisers of the trusts. For socialism is not a figment of the imagination, but the assimilation and application by the proletarian vanguard, which has seized power, of what has been created by the trusts. We, the party of the proletariat, have no other way of acquiring the ability to organise large-scale production on trust lines, as trusts are organised, except by acquiring it from first-class capitalist experts.
We have nothing to teach them, unless we undertake the childish task of “teaching” the bourgeois intelligentsia socialism. We must not teach them, but expropriate them (as is being done in Russia “determinedly” enough), put a stop to their sabotage, subordinate them as a section or group to Soviet power. We, on the other hand, if we are not Communists of infantile age and infantile understanding, must learn from them, and there is something to learn, for the party of the proletariat and its vanguard have no experience of independent work in organising giant enterprises which serve the needs of scores of millions of people.
The best workers in Russia have realised this. They have begun to learn from the capitalist organisers, the managing engineers and the technicians. They have begun to learn steadily and cautiously with easy things, gradually passing on to the more difficult things. If things are going more slowly in the iron and steel and engineering industries, it is because they present greater difficulties. But the textile and tobacco workers and tanners are not afraid of “state capitalism” or of “learning from the organisers of the trusts”, as the declassed petty-bourgeois intelligentsia are. These workers in the central leading institutions like Chief Leather Committee and Central Textile Committee take their place by the side of the capitalists, learn from them, establish trusts, establish “state capitalism”, which under Soviet power represents the threshold of socialism, the condition of its firm victory.
This work of the advanced workers of Russia, together with their work of introducing labour discipline, has begun and is proceeding quietly, unobtrusively, without the noise and fuss so necessary to some “Lefts”. It is proceeding very cautiously and gradually, taking into account the lessons of practical experience. This hard work, the work of learning practically how to build up large-scale production, is the guarantee that we are on the right road, the guarantee that the class-conscious workers in Russia are carrying on the struggle against small proprietary disintegration and disorganisation, against petty-bourgeois indiscipline—the guarantee of the victory of communism.
Two remarks in conclusion.
In arguing with the “Left Communists” on April 4, 1918 (see Kommunist No. 1, p. 4, footnote), I put it to them bluntly: “Explain what you are dissatisfied with in the railway decree; submit your amendments to it. It is your duty as Soviet leaders of the proletariat to do so, otherwise what you say is nothing but empty phrases.”
The first issue of Kommunist appeared on April 20, 1918, but did not contain a single word about how, according to the “Left Communists”, the railway decree should be altered or amended.
The “Left Communists” stand condemned by their own silence. They did nothing but attack the railway decree with all sorts of insinuations (pages 8 and 16 of No. 1), they gave no articulate answer to the question, “How should the decree be amended if it is wrong?”
No comment is needed. The class-conscious workers will call such “criticism” of the railway decree (which is a typical example of our line of action, the line of firmness, the line of dictatorship, the line of proletarian discipline) either “Isuvian” criticism or empty phrase-making.
Second remark. The first issue of Kommunist contained a very flattering review by Comrade Bukharin of my pamphlet The State and Revolution. But however much I value the opinion of people like Bukharin, my conscience compels me to say that the character of the review reveals a sad and significant fact. Bukharin regards the tasks of the proletarian dictatorship from the point of view of the past and not of the future. Bukharin noted and emphasised what the proletarian revolutionary and the petty-bourgeois revolutionary may have in common on the question of the state. But Bukharin “overlooked” the very thing that distinguishes the one from the other.
Bukharin noted and emphasised that the old state machinery must be “smashed” and “blown up”, that the bourgeoisie must be “finally and completely strangled” and so on. The frenzied petty bourgeoisie may also want this. And this, in the main, is what our revolution has already done between October 1917 and February 1918.
[Graphic: Stephanie McMillan.]
In my pamphlet I also mention what even the most revolutionary petty bourgeois cannot want, what the class-conscious proletarian does want, what our revolution has not yet accomplished. On this task, the task of tomorrow, Bukharin said nothing.
And I have all the more reason not to be silent on this point, because, in the first place, a Communist is expected to devote greater attention to the tasks of tomorrow, and not of yesterday, and, in the second place, my pamphlet was written before the Bolsheviks seized power, when it was impossible to treat the Bolsheviks to vulgar petty-bourgeois arguments such as: “Yes, of course, after seizing power, you begin to talk about discipline.”
“. . . Socialism will develop into communism . . . since people will become accustomed to observing the elementary conditions of social life without violence and without subordination.” [The State and Revolution, pages 77-78]; thus, “elementary conditions” were discussed before the seizure of power.
“. . . Only then will democracy begin to wither away . . .” when “people gradually become accustomed to observing the elementary rules of social intercourse that have been known for centuries and repeated for thousands of years in all copy-book maxims; they will become accustomed to observing them without force, without coercion, without the special apparatus for coercion called the state” [The State and Revolution, page 462.]; thus mention was made of “copy-book maxims” before the seizure of power:
. . . The higher phase of the development of communism (from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs). . . presupposes not the present productivity of labour and not the present ordinary run of people, who, like the seminary students in Pomyalovsky’s stories, are capable of damaging the stocks of public wealth just for fun, and of demanding the impossible [The State and Revolution, pages pages 469-470.]
Until the higher phase of communism arrives, the socialists demand the strictest control by society and by the state over the measure of labour and the measure of consumption . . . (ibid.).
“Accounting and control—that is mainly what is needed for the smooth working, for the proper functioning of the first phase of communist society” [The State and Revolution, page 473.] And this control must be established not only over “the insignificant capitalist minority, over the gentry who wish to preserve their capitalist habits”, but also over the workers who “have been thoroughly corrupted by capitalism”[The State and Revolution, page 474.] and over the “parasites, the sons of the wealthy, the swindlers and other guardians of capitalist traditions” (ibid.).
It is significant that Bukharin did not emphasise this.
[Note: This piece, published in 1918, is taken from the Marxists Internet Archive.]
[The graphic is a caricature of David Cameron.]
 Nozdryov—a character in Gogol’s Dead Souls personifying the bullying type of landowner.
 Lenin is quoting statements by Karl Marx set forth by Engels in The Peasant Question in France and Germany (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, p. 438).
 In this case also we must look truth in the face. We stlll have too little of that ruthlessness which is indispensable for the success of socialism, and we have too little not because we lack determination. We have sufficient determination. What we do lack is the ablllty to catch quickly enough a sufficient number of proflteers, racketeers and capitalists—the people who infringe the measures passed by the Soviets. The “ability” to do this can only be acquired by establishing accounting and control! Another thing is that the courts are not sufficiently firm. Instead of sentencing people who take bribes to be shot, they sentence them to six months’ imprisonment. These two defects have the same social root: the influence of the petty-bourgeois element, its flabbiness.
 Lenin has in mind one of the basic arguments used by the Mensheviks against the October Socialist Revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Mensheviks maintained that the seizure of power was “premature”, that Russia had not yet achieved a high enough development of the productive forces for socialism to be feasible. After the October Revolution they continued to oppose Soviet power and revolutionary socialist reforms.
These Menshevik views were summed up in a book by N. Sukhanov, Notes on the Revolution, which Lenin criticised in his article “Our Revolution (Appropos the Notes of N. Sukhanov)”. Refuting the Menshevik idea that the socialist revolution in Russia was “premature” because of economic and cultural backwardness, Lenin wrote that the working class of Russia must begin with the winning of state power by revolutionary means “and then, with the aid of the workers’ and peasants’ government and the Soviet system, proceed to overtake the other nations” (Selected Works, Vol. 3, p. 822).
 The Man in a Muffler—a character from the story of that title by Anton Chekhov. Typifies the narrow-minded Philistine afraid of all innovation and initiative.
 In June 1917 the Bolshevik Central Committee was planning a peaceful demonstration by the workers and soldiers of Petrograd. At a joint meeting of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and members of the Presidium of the First All-Russia Congress of Soviets held to discuss the matter on June 11 (24), 1917, the Menshevik I. G. Tsereteli made a viciously slanderous statement against the Bolsheviks, accusing them of plotting against the government and aiding the counter-revolution, and threatened to take resolute steps to disarm the workers who supported the Bolsheviks.
 Lenin is quoting V. L. Pushkin’s epigram about a mediocre poet who sent his verses to Phoebus, god of the sun and patron of the arts. The epigram ends with the following lines:
And while he read, the yawning Phoebus asked
What age this rhymster had attained,
How long such rumbling odes composed?
“He is fifteen,” Erato made reply.
“But fifteen years?” “No more, my lord.”
“Then shall the birch be his reward!“
 It is extremely characteristic that the authors of the theses do not say a single word ahout the significance of the dictatorship of the prolotariat in the economic sphere. They talk only of the “organisation” and so on. But that is accepted also by the petty bourgeoisie, who shun dictatorship by the workers in economic relations. A proletarian rovolutionary could never at such a moment “forget” this core of the proletarian revolution, which is directed against the economic foundations of capitalism.
The writer was a Russian communist revolutionary, politician and political theorist. He served as head of government of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic from 1917, and of the Soviet Union from 1922 until his death in 1924.