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- From October to Brest-Litovsk - 1/17 -

From October to Brest-Litovsk

By Leon Trotzky

Authorized Translation from the Russian



1. In this book Trotzky (until near the end) uses the Russian Calendar in indicating dates, which, as the reader will recall, is 13 days behind the Gregorian Calendar, now introduced in Russia.

2. The abbreviation S. R. and S. R.'s is often used for "Social-Revolutionist(s)" or "Socialist-Revolutionaries."

3. "Maximalist" often appears instead of "bolshevik," and "minimalist" instead of "menshevik."


Events move so quickly at this time, that it is hard to set them down from memory even in chronological sequence. Neither newspapers nor documents are at our disposal. And vet the repeated interruptions in the Brest-Litovsk negotiations create a suspense which, under present circumstances, is no longer bearable. I shall endeavor, therefore, to recall the course and the landmarks of the October revolution, reserving the right to complete and correct this exposition subsequently in the light of documents.

What characterized our party almost from the very first period of the revolution, was the conviction that it would ultimately come into power through the logic of events. I do not refer to the theorists of the party, who, many years before the revolution--even before the revolution of 1905--as a result of their analysis of class relations in Russia, came to the conclusion that the triumphant development of the revolution must inevitably transfer the power to the proletariat, supported by the vast masses of the poorest peasants. The chief basis of this prognosis was the insignificance of the Russian bourgeois democracy and the concentrated character of Russian industrialism--which makes of the Russian proletariat a factor of tremendous social importance. The insignificance of bourgeois democracy is but the complement of the power and significance of the proletariat. It is true, the war has deceived many on this point, and, first of all, the leading groups of bourgeois democracy themselves. The war has assigned a decisive role in the events of the revolution to the army. The old army meant the peasantry. Had the revolution developed more normally--that is, under peaceful circumstances, as it had in 1912--the proletariat would always have held a dominant position, while the peasant masses would gradually have been taken in tow by the proletariat and drawn into the whirlpool of the revolution.

But the war produced an altogether different succession of events. The army welded the peasants together, not by a political, but by a military tie. Before the peasant masses could be drawn together by revolutionary demands and ideas, they were already organized in regimental staffs, divisions and army corps. The representatives of petty bourgeois democracy, scattered through this army and playing a leading role in it, both in a military and in a conceptual way, were almost completely permeated with middle-class revolutionary tendencies. The deep social discontent in the masses became more acute and was bound to manifest itself, particularly because of the military shipwreck of Czarism. The proletariat, as represented in its advanced ranks, began, as soon as the revolution developed, to revive the 1905 tradition and called upon the masses of the people to organize in the form of representative bodies--soviets, consisting of deputies. The army was called upon to send its representatives to the revolutionary organizations before its political conscience caught up in any way with the rapid course of the revolution. Whom could the soldiers send as deputies? Eventually, those representatives of the intellectuals and semi-intellectuals who chanced to be among them and who possessed the least bit of knowledge of political affairs and could make this knowledge articulate. In this way, the petty bourgeois intellectuals were at once and of necessity raised to great prominence in the awakening army. Doctors, engineers, lawyers, journalists and volunteers, who under pre-bellum conditions led a rather retired life and made no claim to any importance, suddenly found themselves representative of whole corps and armies and felt that they were "leaders" of the revolution. The nebulousness of their political ideology fully corresponded with the formlessness of the revolutionary consciousness of the masses. These elements were extremely condescending toward us "Sectarians," for we expressed the social demands of the workers and the peasants most pointedly and uncompromisingly.

At the same time, the petty bourgeois democracy, with the arrogance of revolutionary upstarts, harbored the deepest mistrust of itself and of the very masses who had raised it to such unexpected heights. Calling themselves Socialists, and considering themselves such, the intellectuals were filled with an ill-disguised respect for the political power of the liberal bourgeoisie, towards their knowledge and methods. To this was due the effort of the petty bourgeois leaders to secure, at any cost, a cooperation, union, or coalition with the liberal bourgeoisie. The programme of the Social-Revolutionists--created wholly out of nebulous humanitarian formulas, substituting sentimental generalizations and moralistic superstructures for a class-conscious attitude, proved to be the thing best adapted for a spiritual vestment of this type of leaders. Their efforts in one way or another to prop up their spiritual and political helplessness by the science and politics of the bourgeoisie which so overawed them, found its theoretical justification in the teachings of the Mensheviki, who explained that the present revolution was a bourgeois revolution, and therefore could not succeed without the participation of the bourgeoisie in the government. In this way, the natural bloc of Social-Revolutionists and Mensheviki was created, which gave simultaneous expression to the political lukewarmness of the middle-class intellectuals and its relation of vassal to imperialistic liberalism.

It was perfectly clear to us that the logic of the class struggle would, sooner or later, destroy this temporary combination and cast aside the leaders of the transition period. The hegemony of the petty bourgeois intellectuals meant, in reality, that the peasantry, which had suddenly been called, through the agency of the military machine, to an organized participation in political life, had, by mere weight of numbers, overshadowed the working class and temporarily dislodged it. More than this: To the extent that the middle-class leaders had suddenly been lifted to terrific heights by the mere bulk of the army, the proletariat itself, and its advanced minority, had been discounted, and could not but acquire a certain political respect for them and a desire to preserve a political bond with them; it might otherwise be in danger of losing contact with the peasantry. In the memories of the older generation of workingmen, the lesson of 1905 was firmly fixed; then, the proletariat was defeated just because the heavy peasant reserves did not arrive in time for the decisive battle. This is why in this first period of the revolution even the masses of workingmen proved so much more receptive to the political ideology of the Social-Revolutionists and the Mensheviki. All the more so, since the revolution had awakened the hitherto dormant and backward proletarian masses, thus making uninformed intellectual radicalism into a preparatory school for them.

The Soviets of Workingmen's, Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies meant, under these circumstances, the domination of peasant formlessness over proletarian socialism, and the domination of intellectual radicalism over peasant formlessness. The soviet institution rose so rapidly, and to such prominence, largely because the intellectuals, with their technical knowledge and bourgeois connections, played a leading part in the work of the soviet. It was clear to us, however, that the whole inspiring structure was based upon the deepest inner contradictions, and that its downfall during the next phase of the revolution was quite inevitable.

The revolution grew directly out of the war, and the war became the great test for all parties and revolutionary forces. The intellectual leaders were "against the war." Many of them, under the Czarist regime, had considered themselves partisans of the left wing of the Internationale, and subscribed to the Zimmerwald resolution. But everything changed suddenly when they found themselves in responsible "posts." To adhere to the policy of Revolutionary Socialism meant, under those circumstances, to break with the bourgeoisie, their own and that of the Allies. And we have already said that the political helplessness of the intellectual and semi-intellectual middle class sought shelter for itself in a union with bourgeois liberalism. This caused the pitiful and truly shameful attitude of the middle-class leaders towards the war. They confined themselves to sighs, phrases, secret exhortations or appeals addressed to the Allied Governments, while they were actually following the same path as the liberal bourgeoisie. The masses of soldiers in the trenches could not, of course, reach the conclusion that the war, in which they had participated for nearly three years, had changed its character merely because certain new persons, who called themselves "Social-Revolutionists" or "Mensheviki," were taking part in the Petrograd Government. Milyukov displaced the bureaucrat Pokrovsky; Tereshtchenko displaced Milyukov--which means that bureaucratic treachery had been replaced first by militant Cadet imperialism, then by an unprincipled, nebulous and political subserviency; but it brought no objective changes, and indicated no way out of the terrible war.

Just in this lies the primary cause of the subsequent disorganization of the army. The agitators told the soldiers that the Czarist Government had sent them into slaughter without any rime or reason. But those who replaced the Czar could not in the least change the character of the war, just as they could not find their way clear for a peace campaign. The first months were spent in merely marking time. This tried the patience both of the army and of the Allied Governments, and prompted the drive of June 18, which was demanded by the Allies, who insisted upon the fulfillment of the old Czarist obligations. Scared by their own helplessness and by the growing impatience of the masses, the leaders of the middle class complied with this demand. They actually began to think that, in order to obtain peace, it was only necessary for the Russian army to make a drive. Such a drive seemed to offer a way out of the difficult situation, a real solution of the problem--salvation. It is hard to imagine a more amazing and more criminal delusion. They spoke of the drive in those days in the same terms that were used by the social-patriots of all countries in the first days and weeks of the war, when speaking of the necessity of supporting the cause of national defence, of strengthening the holy alliance of nations, etc., etc. All their Zimmerwald internationalistic infatuations had vanished as if by magic.

To us, who were in uncompromising opposition, it was clear that the drive was beset with terrible danger, threatening perhaps the ruin of the revolution itself. We sounded the warning that the army, which had been awakened and deeply stirred by the tumultuous events which it was still far from comprehending, could not be sent into battle without giving it new ideas which it could recognize as its own. We warned, accused, threatened. But as for the dominant party, tied up as it was

From October to Brest-Litovsk - 1/17

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