Thursday, April 20, 2017

Lenin's April Theses 100 years later

On April 17th, one century ago, Lenin announced what can be understood as the manifesto for the Russian Revolution, known to history as the April Theses. 

Sputnik News has a very cool and detailed infographic on them, go take a look.

The full name of the text is actually The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution, it is freely available at

Context: after the February Revolution, there was a provisional government led by liberal (i.e. center-right) Georgy Lvov and dominated by the Kadet party (also liberal in the classical sense of strongly capitalist). While other "socialist" factions had minor representation in this provisional government, the Bolsheviks did not partake of it. There was however a parallel government in the form of a loose network of local soviets (worker councils), dominated by the Soviet of Petrograd.

On April 16th Lenin arrived from Zürich in the famed train episode and thus the following day he spoke in Petrograd. What he exposed in two successive discourses became known as the April Theses.

A synthesis of the theses may be:
  1. No to the imperialist war, democratic and not violent peace. A revolutionary war may be acceptable but only if: 
    1. The power is in the hand of the working classes (proletariat and landless farmers)
    2. Nothing is annexed
    3. There is radical break with the interests of Capitalism
  2.  Russia is in the first stage of the Revolution, which gave power to the bourgeoisie, but there must be a second stage in which the power passes to the working class. This first stage caused class consciousness to extend to the masses and this newly born consciousness must now serve real emancipation.
  3. No support for the Provisional Government, which he dubs deceitful and confronted to the real interest of the Russian masses.
  4. Acknowledging that the Bolsheviks were in the minority in many soviets, which were controlled by the social-reformists (Social Revolutionary or agrarian populist party and the left wing of the Kadet or liberal party). However the soviets are the only possible form of popular revolutionary government and the Bolshevik task in them must be to expose the treason of the Provisional Government.
  5. No support for a parliamentary republic (a backward step) but for a republic of the soviets. Abolition of the police, army (to be replaced by arming of the whole People) and bureaucracy. Limitation of salaries of all officers, who are to be replaceable at any moment, by that of a qualified worker.
  6. Agrarian programme: confiscation of all landed estates, nationalization of all lands (to be managed by the soviets), creation of "model farms" in all expropriated latifundia.
  7. Fussion of all banks into a single national bank under soviet control.
  8. Bolsheviks should focus on bringing all the economy into the hands of the soviets. 
  9. Call for an immediate Congress of the Bolshevik Party, renaming of the party (would be Communist Party, following Marx' preferences), modification of the party program, mainly on the issues of imperialism and war, on the preference for a "commune state" and on the predicted calendar.
  10. Forging of a new International against the "social-chauvinists" (would be "social-democrats" by our modern terminology). 
Hardly anything to object to Lenin in this moment: I can perfectly embrace his program in full. Daring he may be but daring we must be if we are to succeed. So far so good but history doesn't stop.

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