Letters from Afar: Tasks Involved in Building of the Revolutionary Proletarian State

Written on April 8 [March 26 old style], 1917

In the preceding letters, the immediate tasks of the revolutionary proletariat in Russia were formulated as follows: (1) to find the surest road to the next stage of the revolution, or to the second revolution, which (2) must transfer political power from the government of the land lords and capitalists (the Guchkovs, Lvovs, Milyukovs, Kerenskys) to a government of the workers and poorest peasants. (3) This latter government must be organised on the model of the Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, namely, (4) it must smash, completely eliminate, the old state machine, the army, the police force and bureaucracy (officialdom), that is common to all bourgeois states, and substitute for this machine (5) not only a mass organisation, but a universal organisation of the entire armed people. (6) Only such a government, of “such” a class composition (“revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry”) and such organs or government (“proletarian militia”) will be capable of successfully carrying out the extremely difficult and absolutely urgent chief task of the moment, namely: to achieve peace, not an imperialist peace, not a deal between the imperialist powers concerning the division of the booty by the capitalists and their governments, but a really lasting and democratic peace, which cannot be achieved without a proletarian revolution in a number of countries. (7) In Russia the victory of the proletariat can be achieved in the very near future only if, from the very first step, the workers are supported by the vast majority of the peasants fighting for the confiscation of the landed estates (and for the nationalization of all the land, if we assume that the agrarian program of the “104” is still essentially the agrarian program of the peasantry). (8) In connection with such a peasant revolution, and on its basis, the proletariat can and must, in alliance with the poorest section of the peasantry, take further steps towards control of the production and distribution of the basic products, towards the introduction of “universal labor service”, etc. These steps are dictated, with absolute inevitability, by the conditions created by the war, which in many respects will become still more acute in the post-war period. In their entirety and in their development these steps will mark the transition to socialism, which cannot be achieved in Russia directly, at one stroke, without transitional measures, but is quite achievable and urgently necessary as a result of such transitional measures. (9) In this connection, the task of immediately organizing special Soviets of Workers’ Deputies in the rural districts, i.e., Soviets of agricultural wage-workers separate from the Soviets of the other peasant deputies, comes to the fore front with extreme urgency.

Such, briefly, is the program we have outlined, based on an appraisal of the class forces in the Russian and world revolution, and also on the experience of 1871 and 1905.

Let us now attempt a general survey of this program as a whole and, in passing, deal with the way the subject was approached by K. Kautsky, the chief theoretician of the “Second” (1889–1914) International and most prominent representative of the “Centre”, “marsh” trend that is now to be observed in all countries, the trend that oscillates between the social-chauvinists and the revolutionary inter nationalists. Kautsky discussed this subject in his magazine Die Neue Zeit of April 6, 1917 (new style) in an article entitled, “The Prospects of the Russian Revolution”.

“First of all,” writes Kautsky, “we must ascertain what tasks confront the revolutionary proletarian regime” (state system).

“Two things,” continues the author, “are urgently needed by the proletariat: democracy and socialism.”

Unfortunately, Kautsky advances this absolutely incontestable thesis in an exceedingly general form, so that in essence he says nothing and explains nothing. Milyukov and Kerensky, members of a bourgeois and imperialist government, would readily subscribe to this general thesis, one to the first part, and the other to the second…

V.I. Lenin, Letters from Afar, “Fifth Letter: The Tasks Involved in the Building of the Revolutionary Proletarian State”


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