Sixth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (Bolsheviks)

1917-07-26 - Joseph Stalin

Comrades, the Central Committee's report embraces its activities during the past two and a half months— May, June and the early half of July.

The Central Committee's activities in the month of May were directed along three lines.

First, it issued the call for new elections to the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. The Central Committee proceeded from the fact that our revolution was developing along peaceful lines, and that the composition of the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, and hence of the government, could be altered by new elections to the Soviets. Our opponents accused us of trying to seize power. That was a calumny. We had no such intention. We said that we had the opportunity by means of new elections to the Soviets to change the character of the activity of the Soviets and make it conform with the wishes of the broad masses. It was clear to us that a majority of one vote in the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies would be enough to make the government take a different course. New elections were therefore the keynote of our work in the month of May.

In the end we won about half the seats in the workers' group of the Soviet, and about one quarter in the soldiers' group.

Second, agitation against the war. We took the occasion of the death sentence passed on Friedrich Adler 2 to organize a number of protest meetings against capital punishment and against the war. That campaign was well received by the soldiers.

The third aspect of the Central Committee's activities was the municipal elections in May. Jointly with the Petrograd Committee, the Central Committee exerted every effort to give battle both to the Cadets, the main force of counter-revolution, and to the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, who willingly or unwillingly followed the Cadets. We secured about 20 per cent of the 800,000 votes cast in Petrograd. The Vyborg District Duma we won entirely. Outstanding service was rendered the Party by our soldier and sailor comrades.

Thus the outstanding features in May were: 1) the municipal elections; 2) agitation against the war, and 3) the elections to the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies.

June. Rumours of preparation for an offensive at the front were making the soldiers restless. A series of orders were issued abrogating the rights of the soldiers. All this electrified the masses. Every rumour spread through Petrograd like wildfire, stirring up unrest among the workers and especially the soldiers. Rumours of an offensive; Kerensky's orders and declaration of the rights of the soldier; the evacuation from Petrograd of "unnecessary" elements—as the authorities called them, it being clear, however, that what they wanted was to rid Petrograd of revolutionary elements; the economic disruption, which was becoming ever more tangible— all this was making the workers and soldiers restless. Meetings were organized at the factories, and we were being constantly urged by regiments and factories to organize a demonstration. It was planned to hold a demonstration on June 5. But the Central Committee resolved not to hold a demonstration for the time being, but to convene a meeting of representatives of the districts, factories, mills and regiments on June 7 and to decide there the question of a demonstration. This meeting was called and was attended by about 200 persons. It became evident that the soldiers were particularly restless. By an overwhelming majority of votes it was decided to demonstrate. The question was debated as to what should be done if the Congress of Soviets, which had just opened, should declare against a demonstration. The vast majority of the comrades who took the floor were of the opinion that nothing could prevent the demonstration from being held. After that the Central Committee decided to take it upon itself to organize a peaceful demonstration. The soldiers wanted to know whether they could not come armed, but the Central Committee resolved against the carrying of arms. The soldiers, however, said that it was impossible to come unarmed, that arms were the only effective guarantee against excesses on the part of the bourgeois public, and that they would bring arms only for purposes of self-defence.

On June 9 the Central Committee, the Petrograd Committee and the Army Organization held a joint meeting. The Central Committee raised the following point: in view of the fact that the Congress of Soviets and all the "socialist" parties were opposed to our demonstration, would it not be well to postpone it? All replied in the negative.

At midnight the same day the Congress of Soviets issued a manifesto in which it brought the whole weight of its authority against us. The Central Committee resolved not to hold the demonstration on June 10 and to postpone it to June 18, seeing that on that day the Congress of Soviets was itself calling a demonstration, at which the masses would be able to express their will. The workers and soldiers greeted the Central Committee's decision with repressed dissatisfaction, but obeyed it. It is characteristic, comrades, that on the morning of June 10, when a number of speakers from the Congress of Soviets addressed factory meetings urging the "liquidation of the attempt to organize a demonstration," the overwhelming majority of the workers agreed to listen only to the speakers of our Party. The Central Committee succeeded in pacifying the soldiers and workers. This was indicative of our high level of organization.

When arranging the demonstration for June 18 the Congress of Soviets announced that freedom of slogans would be allowed. It was evident that the Congress had decided to give battle to our Party. We accepted the challenge, and began to muster our forces for the coming demonstration.

The comrades know how the demonstration of June 18 went off. Even the bourgeois papers said that the overwhelming majority of the demonstrators marched under the slogans of the Bolsheviks. The principal slogan was "All power to the Soviets!" No fewer than 400,000 persons marched in the procession. Only three small groups—the Bund, the Cossacks and the Plekhanovites— ventured to display the slogan "Confidence in the Provisional Government!"— and even they repented it, for they were compelled to furl their banners. The Congress of Soviets was given proof positive of how great the strength and influence of our Party was. It was the general conviction that the demonstration of June 18, which was more imposing than the demonstration of April 21, was bound to have its effect. And it should indeed have had its effect. Rech averred that in all probability there would be important changes in the government, because the policy of the Soviets was not approved by the masses. But that very day our armies launched an offensive at the front, a successful offensive, and the "Blacks" began a demonstration on the Nevsky Prospect in honour of it. That obliterated the moral victory gained by the Bolsheviks at the demonstration. It also obliterated the chances of the practical results which had been spoken of by both Rech and official spokesmen of the ruling parties, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks.

The Provisional Government remained in power. The successful offensive, partial successes of the Provisional Government, and a number of projects to withdraw the troops from Petrograd had their effect on the soldiers. These facts convinced them that passive imperialism was changing to active imperialism. They realized that a period of fresh sacrifices had begun.

The front reacted to the policy of active imperialism in its own way. A whole number of regiments, in spite of orders to the contrary, began to take a vote on the question of whether to attack or not. The higher command failed to realize that in the new conditions prevailing in Russia, and in view of the fact that the aims of the war had not been made clear, it was impossible to hurl the masses blindly into an offensive. What we had predicted occurred: the offensive was doomed to failure.

The latter part of June and the beginning of July were dominated by the policy of the offensive. Rumours were circulating that the death penalty had been reintroduced, that a whole number of regiments were being disbanded, that soldiers at the front were being subjected to maltreatment. Delegates arrived from the front with reports of the arrest and beating up of soldiers in their own units. There were similar reports from the grenadier regiment and the machine-gun regiment. All this prepared the ground for another demonstration of the workers and soldiers of Petrograd.

I now come to the events of July 3-5. It all began on July 3, at three in the afternoon, at the premises of the Petrograd Committee.

July 3, 3 p.m. The Petrograd City Conference of our Party was in session. The most inoffensive of questions was being discussed—the municipal elections. Two representatives of one of the regiments of the garrison appeared. They raised a matter of urgency. Their regiment had "decided to come out this evening," because they "could not stand it any longer in silence when regiment after regiment was being disbanded at the front," and they had "already sent round their delegates to the factories and regiments" inviting them to join the demonstration. In reply to this, Comrade Volodarsky, speaking for the presidium of the conference, said that "the Party had already decided not to demonstrate, and Party members in the regiment must not dare to disobey the Party's decision."

4 p.m. The Petrograd Committee, Army Organization and Central Committee of the Party, having discussed the question, resolve not to demonstrate. The resolution is approved by the conference, whose members disperse to the factories and regiments to dissuade the comrades from demonstrating.

5 p.m. A meeting of the Bureau of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets in the Taurida Palace. On the instructions of the Central Committee of the Party, Comrade Stalin makes a statement to the Bureau of the Central Executive Committee on what has occurred, and reports that the Bolsheviks have decided against a demonstration.

7 p.m. In front of the headquarters of the Petrograd Committee. Several regiments march up with banners displaying the slogan "All power to the Soviets!" They stop in front of the Petrograd Committee promises and request that members of our organization "say a few words." Two Bolshevik speakers, Lashevich and Kurayev, explain the current political situation and urge against demonstrating. They are received with cries of "Get down!" Members of our organization then suggest that the soldiers elect a delegation to convey their wishes to the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets and then disperse to their regiments. This proposal is greeted with deafening cheers. The band plays theMarseillaise. . . . By this time the news flies round Petrograd that the Cadets have resigned from the government, and the workers become restless. Following the soldiers, columns of workers appear. Their slogans are the same as the soldiers'. The soldiers and the workers march off to the Taurida Palace.

9 p.m. Headquarters of the Petrograd Committee. A succession of delegates arrives from the factories. They all request our Party organizations to join in and assume direction of the demonstration. Otherwise there "will be bloodshed." Voices are raised suggesting that delegations should be elected from the mills and factories to make the will of the demonstrators known to the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, and that the masses; after hearing the reports of the delegations, should disperse peacefully.

10 p.m. Meeting of the Workers' Section of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies in the Taurida Palace. In consequence of the reports of the workers that the demonstration has already begun, the majority of the section decide to join in the demonstration in order to avert excesses and to lend it a peaceful and organized character. A minority do not agree with this decision and walk out of the meeting. The majority elect a bureau to carry out the decision just adopted.

11 p.m. The Central Committee and PetrogradCommittee of our Party shift their meeting place to the Taurida Palace, to which the demonstrators have been marching all the evening. Agitators from the districts and representatives from the factories arrive. Representatives of the Central Committee of our Party, the Petrograd Committee, the Army Organization, the Mezhrayonny Committee and the Bureau of the Workers' Section of the Petrograd Soviet hold a meeting. The reports from the districts make it clear:

1) That the workers and soldiers cannot be restrained from demonstrating the following day;

2) That the demonstrators will carry arms exclusively for self-defence, as an effective guarantee against provocative shots that may be fired from the Nevsky Prospect: "It's not so easy to fire on armed men."

The meeting decides that at a time when the revolutionary worker and soldier masses are demonstrating under the slogan "All power to the Soviets!" the party of the proletariat has no right to wash its hands of and stand aloof from the movement; it cannot abandon the masses to the caprice of fate; it must remain with the masses in order to lend the spontaneous movement a conscious and organized character. The meeting decides to recommend the workers and soldiers to elect delegates from the regiments and factories and through them declare their wishes to the Executive Committee of the Soviets. An appeal for a "peaceful and organized demonstration" is drawn up on the lines of this decision. 3

Midnight. Over 30,000 Putilov workers arrive at the Taurida Palace with banners displaying the slogan: "All power to the Soviets!" Delegates are elected. The delegates report the demands of the Putilov workers to the Executive Committee. The soldiers and workers in front of the Taurida Palace begin to disperse.

July 4. Daytime. The procession of workers and soldiers, carrying banners and Bolshevik slogans, marches to the Taurida Palace. The tail of the procession consists of thousands of sailors from Kronstadt. There are no fewer than 400,000 demonstrators—according to the bourgeois papers (Birzhovka). The streets are scenes of jubilation. Friendly cheers from the public greet the demonstrators. In the afternoon excesses begin. Sinister elements in the bourgeois districts cast a dark shadow over the workers' demonstration by firing provocative shots. Even Birzheviye Vedomosti does not venture to deny that the shooting was started by opponents of the demonstration. "Precisely at two o'clock," it writes (July 4, evening edition), "on the corner of the Sadovaya and the Nevsky Prospect, as the armed demonstrators were filing past and large numbers of the public were quietly looking on, a deafening report came from the right side of the Sadovaya, after which shots began to be fired in volleys."

Obviously, it was not the demonstrators that started the shooting; it was "unknown persons" who fired on the demonstrators, not vice versa.

Firing went on simultaneously in several places in the bourgeois part of the town. The provocators were not dozing. Nevertheless, the demonstrators did not go beyond necessary self-defence. There was absolutely no sign of a conspiracy or insurrection. Not a single government or public building was seized, nor even was an attempt made to do so, although, with the tremendous armed force at their disposal, the demonstrators could quite easily have captured not only individual buildings, but the whole city. . . .

8 p.m. At a meeting of the Central Committee, the Mezhrayonny Committee and other organizations of our Party in the Taurida Palace it is decided that now that the revolutionary workers and soldiers have demonstrated their will, the action should be stopped. An appeal is drawn up on these lines: "The demonstration is over. . . . Our watchword is: Staunchness, restraint, calm"

(see the appeal in Listok Pravdy 4). The appeal was sent to Pravda but could not appear on July 5, because on the night of the 4th thePravda offices were wrecked by military cadets and secret agents.

10-11 p.m. In the Taurida Palace the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets discusses the question of the government. After the resignation of the Cadets the position of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks has become very critical: they "need" a bloc with the bourgeoisie, but a bloc is impossible because the bourgeoisie want no more agreements with them. A bloc with the Cadets is no longer feasible. Hence the question of the Soviets taking over power themselves arises with full force.

There are rumours that our front has been pierced by the Germans. True, these rumours are still unconfirmed, but they cause uneasiness.

There are rumours that on the following day a statement will appear in the press containing an infamous slander against Comrade Lenin.

The Central Executive Committee of the Soviets calls out soldiers (of the Volhynia regiment) to protect the Taurida Palace. From whom? From the Bolsheviks, it appears, who have allegedly come to the palace to "arrest" the Executive Committee and "seize power." That is said of the Bolsheviks, who had been advocating the strengthening of the Soviets and the transference to them of all authority in the country! . . .

2-3 a.m. The Central Executive Committee of the Soviets does not assume power. It instructs the "socialist" Ministers to form a new government and to get at least a few bourgeois into it. The Ministers are furnished with emergency powers to "combat anarchy." The matter is clear: the Central Executive Committee, faced with the necessity of resolutely breaking with the bourgeoisie —which it particularly fears to do, because it has hitherto derived its strength from "combinations" in one form or another with the bourgeoisie—responds by resolutely breaking with the workers and the Bolsheviks, in order to join with the bourgeoisie and turn its weapons against the revolutionary workers and soldiers. Thus a campaign is launched against the revolution. The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks open fire on the revolution, to the glee of the counter-revolutionaries. . . .

July 5. The papers (Zhivoye Slovo 5) publish the statement with the infamous slander against Comrade Lenin. Pravda does not appear, because its offices were wrecked on the night of July 4. A dictatorship of the "socialist" Ministers, who are seeking a bloc with the Cadets, is established. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, who had not wanted to take power, now take it (for a short period) in order to crush the Bolsheviks. . . . Army units from the front appear in the streets. Gangs of military cadets and counterrevolutionaries go about wrecking, making searches and committing acts of ruffianism. The witch-hunt against Lenin and the Bolsheviks raised by Alexinsky, Pankratov and Pereverzev is exploited to the full by the counter-revolutionaries. The counter-revolution hourly gains momentum. The hub of the dictatorship is the army staff. The secret service agents, the military cadets, the Cossacks run riot. Arrests and manhandlings. The open attack of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets against the Bolshevik workers and soldiers unleashes the forces of counter-revolution. . . .

In reply to the slanders of Alexinsky and Co., the Central Committee of our Party issues the leaflet, "Try the Slanderers!" 6 The Central Committee's appeal to call off the strike and demonstration (which could not appear in Pravda because of the wrecking of its offices) appears as a separate leaflet. One is struck by the absence of any appeals from the other "socialist" parties. The Bolsheviks are alone. Against them have tacitly combined all the elements to the Right of the Bolsheviks — from Suvorin and Milyukov to Dan and Chernov.

July 6. The bridges have been raised. The pacifier Ma-zurenko and his composite detachment are doing their punitive work. In the streets, troops are suppressing recalcitrants. There is a virtual state of siege. "Suspects" are arrested and taken to military headquarters. Workers, soldiers and sailors are being disarmed. Petrograd has been placed under the power of the military. Much as the "powers that be" would like to incite a so-called "battle," the workers and soldiers do not succumb to the provocation and do not "accept battle." The Fortress of Peter and Paul opens its gates to the disarmers. The premises of the Petrograd Committee are occupied by a composite detachment. Searches are conducted and weapons confiscated in the working-class districts. Tsereteli's idea of disarming the workers and soldiers, which he first timidly formulated on June 11, is now being carried into effect. "Minister of Disarmament" the workers bitterly call him. ...

The Trud printing plant is wrecked. Listok Pravdy appears. A worker, Voinov, is killed while distributing the Listok. . . . The bourgeois press throws off all restraint; it represents the infamous slander against Comrade Lenin as a fact, and now does not confine its attack on the revolution to the Bolsheviks alone, but extends it to the Soviets, the Mensheviks, the Socialist-Revolutionaries.

It becomes clear that in betraying the Bolsheviks the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks have betrayed themselves, have betrayed the revolution, and have unleashed and unbridled the forces of counter-revolution. The campaign of the counter-revolutionary dictatorship against liberty in the rear and at the front is in full swing. From the fact that the Cadet and Allied press, which only yesterday was still carping at revolutionary Russia, now suddenly feels satisfied, it may be concluded that the "work" of pacification was not undertaken without the participation of the Russian and Allied moneybags.

Enviado por Enrique Ibañes