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Letter from afar, corrections from up close: the Bolshevik Consensus of March 1917.

In early March 1917, immediately after the fall of the tsar, Lenin set down his reaction to the cataclysmic events in Russia in four Letters from Afar, using the skimpy news reports available to him in Switzerland. He hoped to publish these letters in the newly revived Pravda in Petrograd, but in the event, only the first of the four letters was published before Lenin himself arrived in early April. (1)

According to a broad and unchallenged consensus among historians, the Petrograd Bolsheviks were scandalized by the views expressed in the four letters, owing to bold innovations that broke fundamentally with Old Bolshevism. Lenin's audacity so flustered the editors of Pravda that they refused to published three of the Letters from Afar, and even the one letter that was published was heavily censored with cuts that disfigured its essential message. Alexander Rabinowitch speaks for the consensus in his explanation of why the Petrograd Bolsheviks were so upset. After Lev Kamenev and Iosif Stalin arrived on 13 March, he tells us, there was a "sharp turn to the right" in Pravda's political line. After describing the pair's "mild attitude" prior to Lenin's arrival, Rabinowitch comments:
   Obviously, this position contrasted sharply with the views
   expressed by Lenin in his "Letters from Afar," and it is not
   surprising that Pravda published only the first of these and with
   numerous deletions at that. Among crucial phrases censored out was
   Lenin's accusation that "those who advocate that the workers
   support the new government in the interests of the struggle against
   Tsarist reaction (as do the Potresovs, Gvozdevs, Chkhenkelis, and
   in spite of all his inclinations, even Chkheidze [all Mensheviks]
   are traitors to the workers, traitors to the cause of the
   proletariat, [and] the cause of freedom." Lenin might have applied
   this accusation to Kamenev and Stalin as well. (2)

No wonder the Bolshevik leaders were so violently opposed to the even more radical April Theses! The episode of Lenin's Letters from Afar thus feeds into a larger narrative of Bolshevism in 1917, one that emphasizes disruption and disunity. According to this account, Old Bolshevism is rendered irrelevant by the February Revolution, the Russian Bolsheviks flounder until Lenin returns home and rearms the party, and the party is subsequently divided over fundamental issues throughout the year. Party unity is restored--to the extent that it was restored--after the other leading Bolsheviks cave in to Lenin's superior force of will. Only by these means was the party rearmed by a new strategy that proclaimed the socialist nature of the revolution and was therefore responsible for the Bolshevik victory in October. Nothing supports this reading of events more powerfully than the vivid anecdote of the flabbergasted and frightened Petrograd Bolsheviks censoring their own vozhd.

Despite the popularity of this anecdote, there has never been a systematic investigation in either Russia or the West of the cuts made by the Pravda editors. Indeed, since 1949, the Pravda text--the version read by people at the time, and thus of far greater historical importance than Lenin's original draft--has essentially vanished from public view. In this case, an archival document has driven out of circulation a more significant published document. The immediate aim of the present case study is to fill this lacuna: to reestablish the Pravda text, to present the editorial modifications in a systematic manner, and to explain the apparent motivations of the editors.

As a result of my investigation, the Letter can no longer serve as a pillar of the standard narrative and becomes instead a strong challenge to it. The Pravda editors did not refuse to publish any of the Letters from Afar, since only the first one arrived in Petrograd in time. (3) Far from being scandalized by the political message of Lenin's Letter, the Petrograd Bolsheviks enthusiastically endorsed it. (4) The changes made to his text had specific and limited aims: they were not meant to censor or deform his argument, nor did they have that effect. If anything, they improved Lenin's article.

Instead of revealing conflict and discontinuity, the episode of the Letter documents the existence of a Bolshevik consensus in March 1917. Old Bolshevism strongly implied a specific political strategy to fit the post-February situation, one that occurred simultaneously to the emigres and to Bolshevik leaders in Russia. Lenin did not have to rearm the party with a new strategy in April; the Bolsheviks were therefore spared the deep-seated conflicts that any such rearming would have produced, conflicts of the sort faced by the other major political parties. The strategy outlined in the March consensus was consistently applied throughout the year and led to victory in October.

To support these new findings, I first trace the peregrinations of Lenin's text, then examine the excisions made by the Pravda editors. I also present documentary evidence from the period to show that leading Bolsheviks explicitly asserted their complete solidarity with Lenin's message. In the final section, I use the Letter to outline the Bolshevik consensus of March 1917.

The Journey of Lenin's Letter

On 7 March 1917, a week after the abdication of the tsar, Lenin completed the first Letter from Afar, which he promptly sent off to Aleksandra Kollontai in Oslo (then Christiana). Although he circulated the texts of the letters in Switzerland, Lenin had his heart set on sending them to Petrograd for publication in the newly revived Pravda. Under wartime conditions, using Kollontai as a circuitous courier seemed the best bet. The other three letters were written between 8 and 12 March, after which Lenin concentrated wholly on the practical task of getting back to Russia.

In Oslo, Kollontai wrote in her diary on 13 March:
   It is now more important [than ever] to be there [in Russia]. We
   must give direction to the party in our spirit, we must immediately
   draw a sharp line [otmezhivat 'sia] between us and the Provisional
   Government along with the defensists. That is clear. Our work lies
   ahead ... I am waiting for directives from Vladimir Il'ich, and
   then I'll start off. I live in an intoxicating state of
   happiness--it's still so hard to believe ... I can hardly wait for
   an answer from Lenin. (5)

On 15 March, she received the first letter and sent a telegram to Lenin announcing that she was "thrilled by his ideas"; she set out the next day without waiting for the later letters. Her long journey to Petrograd required her to travel 800 miles to the northern tip of Sweden and cross over to Finland before arriving in the Russian capital on 18 March. The day after her arrival, Kollontai dropped off the Letter at Pravda offices and joined the editorial staff. (6)

The Pravda editors took just two days to read the article, decide on necessary changes, make them, and otherwise prepare the article for publication on 21-22 March. Close to one-fourth of the text was removed (Lenin's original draft contains approximately 4,500 words in the English translation, of which approximately 1,100 were cut). The Letter was widely republished in Bolshevik party newspapers throughout Russia. (7)

The other three letters were not received before Lenin's return to Russia and were first published immediately after his death in 1924 (see appendix 3 for more discussion). The substantial cuts made by the Pravda editors to the first letter became known only in 1949, when Lenin's original draft was published in the fourth edition of his collected works. A laconic editorial note mentions that cuts had been made, but gives no further information. (8)

There has never been a systematic analysis of the nature of the actual cuts. Most Western historians rely on a few lines by Eduard Burdzhalov in his pioneering 1956 article about Bolshevik tactics in early 1917-9 An article by A. V. Snegov published in 1963 discussed most of the major cuts but did not present them in a form that allowed the readers to make their own judgments. (10) Both Burdzhalov and Snegov were following a Khrushchev-era anti-Stalin line that aimed at putting as much space between Lenin and Stalin as possible. Since Stalin was one of the editors of Pravda in March 1917, these historians had a vested interest in making the cuts look like anti-Lenin censorship. Western historians have uncritically accepted this post-Stalin Soviet interpretation.

Explaining the Excisions

The present case study aims at restoring the text of Lenin's Letter as originally published in Pravda, as well as indicating all the editorial excisions, additions, and other changes. Appendix 1 contains a new translation of the Pravda version; I have flagged all editorial cuts by bracketed letters, from A to Z, placed at the point of excision. I have also bracketed any language not in Lenin's original draft and added by the editors (new text in the Pravda version is usually a substitute for excised text). In appendix 2, I provide the text of the excised passages, keyed by letter to their position in Lenin's article.

Who were the Pravda editors in 1917? This question is difficult to answer, given conflicting evidence, especially about the exact role of Kamenev. Among those mentioned in the sources as helping to edit Pravda in March 1917 are Aleksandr Shliapnikov, Petr Zalutskii, Viacheslav Molotov, Lev Kamenev, Koba Stalin, Matvei Muranov, Mikhail Olminskii, Mikhail Kalinin, Maria Ul'ianova, and (after her return on 18 March) Aleksandra Kollontai. (11) assume that decisions about how to edit Lenin's article were taken collectively, probably with the participation of representatives of the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee and the Petersburg Committee. (12) Nevertheless, since by all indications Kamenev and Stalin were the senior Bolshevik leaders in Petrograd at this time, I also assume that they are primarily responsible. Since we have no clear picture of the concrete decision process, I will refer simply to "the Pravda editors."

Faced with a text written two weeks earlier by a writer who himself noted that he was "obliged to content himself with meager foreign press dispatches," the editors had to respond to the challenge of presenting it as an effective analysis of a rapidly evolving situation. Publishing an article by the acknowledged leader of the party was a great opportunity but also a great risk for the Bolsheviks. Lenin's analysis of the basic situation had to be a good one--it had to strike readers as perceptive and insightful rather than out of date and out of touch. The editors could not preface the article with an apology: "Please excuse Comrade Lenin's misapprehensions--remember, he penned this in Zurich two weeks ago." The editors needed to make Lenin look good, and even more imperatively, they needed to ensure that he did not look silly.

Given these constraints, there was no guarantee that Lenin's article was even publishable. (13) As we shall see, there is direct evidence that the editors endorsed Lenin's basic political message. They evidently decided to publish the article after removing various misapprehensions on Lenin's part that could be seized on by political opponents or otherwise cause political damage.

A careful comparison of Lenin's original draft with the Pravda articles reveals a host of small copyediting changes. Many commas were added, some were taken out. Dashes and hyphens were added. A botched attempt was made to regularize the use of imperialistskii vs. imperialisticheskii (each of these two forms at some point was changed into the other). In the fourth paragraph of the article, Lenin's "vsiakaia revoliutsiia v tom chisle" was changed to "v tom chisle vsiakaia revoliutsiia." (14) Typographical emphasis was given and taken away from a few words in a way that seems random. (15) These changes appear unimportant and are difficult to represent accurately in a translated text. I have made no attempt to track them here.

The change of greatest political significance in the Pravda text is not a cut but an addition: "soldiers" is systematically added to every mention of the Petrograd Soviet, so that the title now reads: "Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies." (16) Furthermore, every mention of the workers' heroic role in the overthrow of the tsar is widened to share credit with the soldiers. This modification entailed a few small excisions as well. For example, if the Petrograd Soviet already represented soldiers, it could hardly be described as "beginning to win over the soldier and peasant deputies" (Excision B).

The reason for these changes is easy to see. The soldiers in the Petrograd garrison who were represented in the soviet had become a political factor of a magnitude that was not apparent to Lenin in Switzerland when he penned the Letter on 7 March. As Kollontai wrote to him in a letter dated 26 March: "The mood here is dictated by the soldier, and it is the soldier who creates the unique atmosphere, where we see all mixed up together the grandeur of vigorously expressed democratic freedoms, the awakening of a civic awareness of equal rights, and a complete incomprehension of the complexity of the moment we are living through." (17)

In assessing the motivation for the editors' more substantial cuts, we should avoid the usual faulty method of looking at a single excised passage and assuming that the Pravda editors disagreed with everything said in that particular passage. Motivation can be diagnosed only by a systematic look at the excisions as a whole and the overall patterns that emerge. Furthermore, proposed explanations need to be checked against the remaining text as published in Pravda. If Lenin makes a point loud and clear in the published text, the Pravda editors can hardly be accused of attempting to censor him on that particular point.

An attentive perusal of the excised passages makes it reasonably clear that the main motive of the Pravda editors was to remove various misapprehensions about the current political situation that might be vulnerable to attack. Almost all the cuts--and all the larger ones--are explained by three basic motivations of this kind, as set forth in the next section. A number of miscellaneous smaller cuts that provide an illuminating look at the evolving Bolshevik outlook are discussed in appendix 4.

Three Rules

After reading through Lenin's article, the editors made three easily identifiable decisions about what had to be excised to make Lenin's article presentable:

Rule 1: No personal insults to people whose help is needed in getting Lenin and Grigorii Zinov'ev back to Russia. This rule accounts for Excisions A, C, D, L, P, Q, R, T, U, and V.

Rule 2: No accusation of a "plot" to overthrow the tsar that was organized by the English and French embassies, including direct payments to named Russian groups. This rule accounts for Excisions E, F, G, H, and K.

Rule 3: No suggestion that the Provisional Government was still trying to make a deal with the Romanov dynasty. This rule accounts for Excisions I, J, L, P, S, W, and Z.

Rule 1 : No personal insults to people whose help is needed in getting Lenin and Zinov'ev back to Russia. In his memoir about the early months of 1917, Aleksandr Shliapnikov describes the delicate negotiations undertaken during March 1917 by the Petrograd Bolsheviks to clear the way for Lenin's return. By the middle of the month, only a few emigres had returned, and most of these were not antiwar "internationalists." Many socialists were convinced--with good reason, it seems--that the Provisional Government in general and Foreign Minister Pavel Miliukov in particular were maintaining the tsarist policy of warning allied governments against political emigres with radical views. (18)

All the more needed, then, was the cooperation of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet in putting pressure on the government and obtaining exit visas for Bolshevik emissaries. Obtaining this cooperation was a tricky business, since the majority orientation of the soviet was "revolutionary defensism," and some influential Menshevik leaders such as Irakli Tsereteli and Boris Bogdanov did not want the soviet to share the political fallout of seeming to endorse travel through Germany. (19)

When Kollontai arrived on 18 March, carrying the text of Lenin's Letter, she also carried news about the obstructive policies of the English and French governments toward Russian political emigres. On 20 March--the day before the publication of the Letter in Pravda--Jacob Flanecki arrived in Petrograd with some new writings by Lenin in which he himself asked the soviet to put pressure on the Provisional Government to expedite his own return as well as that of other emigres. (20)

The Bolsheviks needed whatever friends at court they had, and insulting these potential friends in print--especially insults based solely on the suspicions of a faraway emigre--must have seemed highly counterproductive. (21) The Bolsheviks' most influential ally on this issue was Nikolai Chkheidze, chairman of the Soviet Executive Committee, who did give valuable help and even showed up to greet Lenin when he arrived at the Finland Station on 3 April. (22) Other possible allies included Aleksandr Kerenskii, the sole representative of the Soviet inside the government, and even Prince Georgii L'vov, the moderate head of the Provisional Government. Foreign Minister Miliukov, in contrast, was regarded as a lost cause who could be insulted with impunity.

The Pravda editors therefore went through Lenin's article and simply removed every explicit reference by name to Chkheidze, Kerenskii, and L'vov. A few other more than usually vituperative phrases were also removed. For example, the words "conman swindles" (moshennicheskaia prodelkd) were removed from the following sentence in the original (Excision R): "All the rest is mere phrases and lies, self-deception on the part of the politicos of the liberal and radical camp, conman swindles."

Lenin explained the rhetorical purpose of his liberal use of proper names in the following passage from the original draft (Excision A): "Now it can no longer be doubted that this war is imperialist on both sides. Only the capitalists and their hangers-on, the social-patriots and social-chauvinists, or--if instead of general critical definitions we use political names familiar in Russia--only the Guchkovs and L'vovs, Miliukovs and Shingarevs, on the one hand, and only the Gvozdevs, Potresovs, Chkhenkelis, Kerenskiis, and Chkheidzes, on the other, can deny or suppress this fact." In the Pravda version, only the political labels are retained: "Now it can no longer be doubted that this war is imperialist on both sides. Only the capitalists and their hangers-on, the social-patriots and social-chauvinists, can deny or suppress this fact."

In the excised passage, Lenin puts L'vov in the same camp as Guchkov and Miliukov, while Kerenskii and Chkheidze are put in the same camp as the right-wing Mensheviks Gvozdev and Potresov (see also Excision T). (23) But the names of Guchkov, Miliukov, Gvozdev, and Potresov are peppered throughout the edited Pravda version. This fact indicates that the nature of the political categories symbolized by the names L'vov, Kerenskii, and Chkheidze, as well as Lenin's strong disapproval of these categories, comes through loud and clear in the Pravda version. The elimination of these names cannot therefore be said to distort Lenin's message.

Rule 2: No accusation of a "plot" to overthrow the tsar that was organized by the English and French embassies, including direct payments to named Russian groups. Writing on 7 March, Lenin was convinced that there was a direct, cash-on-the-barrelhead conspiracy between the allied embassies and the liberal elite, including army units. In point of fact, not only was there no conspiracy, but the allies did not want to see Nicholas deposed in the middle of a war. (24)

Judging from what they left in the published article, the Pravda editors themselves believed that the British and French embassies had played a direct role in the removal of Nicholas. Where they drew the line was any specific assertion of criminal behavior. Thus they removed the italicized words in the following passage, replacing them simply with "strove" (Excision F):
   The whole course of events in the February--March Revolution
   clearly shows that the British and French embassies, with their
   agents and "connections," who had long been making the most
   desperate efforts to prevent "separate" agreements and a separate
   peace between Nicholas II (but let us hope and strive to make him
   "the last") and Wilhelm II, directly organized a plot along with
   the Octobrists and Kadets [Constitutional Democrats], along with a
   section of the generals and the officer staff of the army and the
   St. Petersburg garrison, especially to remove Nicholas Romanov.

Lenin uses the word "plot" (zagovor) five times in his original draft, all within a page or two of one another, all in connection with the "Anglo-French imperialists." Three instances of the word were simply removed (Excisions E, F, G). A later instance was not cut, since in this case Lenin did not say the embassies were plotting with any specific group of Russians, but only that the Anglo-French imperialists plotted among themselves to "put pressure on [tolkat'] Miliukov, Guchkov, and Co. to seize power."

The fifth occurrence of "plot" was allowed to remain after it had been defanged. Lenin wrote that the Anglo-French imperialists "set up a plot with the officers of the Guards." In the published version, the imperialists merely "set up a plot" (see Excision K). Since no indication is given of the goals or coconspirators of this plot, the Pravda version here reads somewhat strangely.

One cannot be sure whether the Pravda editors thought that Lenin's accusations were factually incorrect or whether they saw an explicit charge of treason as a dangerous distraction. Given the campaign later in the summer that charged the Bolsheviks with accepting "German gold," it is ironic that in March the Bolsheviks quashed a story about the role of "English gold." In any event, these editorial cuts make hardly a dent in one of the most prominent themes of Lenin's article: the Provisional Government is "bound hand and foot by Anglo-French imperialist capital."

Rule 3: No suggestion that the Provisional Government was still trying to make a deal with the Romanov dynasty. At the time of writing the Letter, Lenin was convinced that the Provisional Government was hell-bent on making a deal with the dynasty: "The new government has not yet finished off the tsarist monarchy before it has begun to make a deal with the landlord Romanov dynasty. The bourgeoisie of the Octobrist-Kadet type needs a monarchy to serve as the head of the bureaucracy and the army to protect the privileges of capital against the working people" (Lenin's emphasis; see Excision P). By 21-22 March, these accusations would have struck readers as seriously out of date. Mikhail Romanov had abdicated; the Romanov dynasty and monarchists in general were without influence. (25) The editors therefore excised this passage and others like it.

Lenin's overestimation of the dynasty's political influence also led to a misapprehension about the political nature of the Provisional Government. According to Lenin, the overtly tsarist Octobrist Party was the decisive force in the new government, while "Miliukov and the other Kadets serve mostly for decoration" (see Excision L). In reality, the government was dominated by a loose coalition of leftist Kadets and other moderate reformists such as Kerenskii. (26)

The point of view of the Pravda editors was expressed by Stalin at a party conference on 29 March (perhaps mentally addressing Lenin to explain the Pravda cuts): "As the revolution develops, the Provisional Government will turn itself (objectively, it must do this) into a bulwark of counterrevolution-not a tsarist counterrevolution (danger does not threaten us from this direction)--but an imperialist one." (27)

As Stalin's comments show, the Petrograd Bolsheviks realized that the revolution had already developed past the point of a purely antitsarist uprising. On this issue, it is Lenin who (as of 7 March) is still operating on the basis of prewar expectations of a deal with the dynasty, while the Petrograd Bolsheviks had a clearer idea that the revolution was hurtling toward a more radical stage. (28)

Besides the cuts mandated by the three major rules, a number of much smaller, more ad hoc excisions also require comment. Some of these can be partially explained by the bans just discussed, but they also seem to have additional motivation. Since discussion of these smaller changes would compel us to digress into consideration of a variety of unconnected issues, I have put my comments on them in appendix 4.

A Censored Article?

Let us return to the passage quoted from Lenin's original draft by Rabinowitch as an illustration of censorship by the Pravda editors: "He who says that the workers must support the new government in the interests of the struggle against tsarist reaction (and apparently this is being said by the Potresovs, Gvozdevs, Chkhenkelis, and also, all evasiveness notwithstanding, by Chkheidze) is a traitor to the workers, a traitor to the cause of the proletariat, to the cause of peace and freedom." (29)

If we take this passage in isolation as a guide to what the Pravda editors were trying to cover up, we receive a rather shocking impression. Evidently the editors are in favor of support for a Provisional Government headed by Miliukov and Aleksandr Guchkov--so much in favor that they do not balk at censoring their own vozhd. Evidently the Pravda editors highly resent any implication that right-wing Mensheviks such as Aleksandr Potresov and Kuz'ma Gvozdev are traitors to the proletarian cause. No doubt the editors realized that from Lenin's point of view they themselves were traitors!

With the contextual material provided here, we see how misleading this impression is. In the first place, the quoted passage falls under the ban of insulting Chkheidze by name. This ban, however, is not the main reason for the excision. This sentence is taken from Excision P, the most extensive cut made by the editors. All of the material in Excision P is devoted to the charge that a deal was being arranged with the Romanov dynasty. In the sentence following the one quoted by Rabinowitch, Lenin explains why support for the Provisional Government is equivalent to treason:
   For actually, precisely this new government is already bound hand
   and foot by imperialist capital, by the imperialist policy of war
   and plunder, has already begun to make deals (without consulting
   the people!) with the dynasty, is already working to restore the
   tsarist monarchy, is already soliciting the candidature of Mikhail
   Romanov as the new kinglet, is already taking measures to prop up
   the throne, to substitute for the legitimate (lawful, ruling by
   virtue of established law) monarchy a Bonapartist, plebiscite
   monarchy (maintains itself by virtue of a fraudulent popular vote).

By the time this article was published in late March, Mikhail Romanov had long since returned to the obscurity he so richly deserved. In Excision P, Lenin is calling Chkheidze a traitor because he refused to acknowledge that the government was making a deal with the dynasty. But the government was not making a deal with the dynasty, and everybody knew it. If this paragraph had been printed, the only result would have been to make Lenin look silly.

I have explained why this specific passage was cut, but I still need to respond to Rabinowitch's wider point about "crucial phrases" that were "censored out." Could readers of Pravda in March 1917 have doubted that Lenin condemned socialist support for the Provisional Government as absolutely unacceptable? The reestablished Pravda text answers this question. No reader could have missed Lenin's passionate disapproval of any socialist support for the bloodstained, anti-narodnyi Provisional Government. Only "social-patriots" and "social-chauvinists" who had "gone over to the bourgeoisie" would support such a government.

The removal of Chkheidze and Kerenskii as named individuals perhaps blunted Lenin's rhetoric somewhat--although no one reading the published version of the Letter would get the impression that he had lost his edge. In fact, even though these excisions were motivated by extra-editorial concerns, the removal of much of the obsessive name-calling improved the product. Compare the following passages:
   Lenin's original draft: The government of the Octobrists and
   Kadets, of the Guchkovs and Miliukovs, is unable--even if it
   sincerely desired this (only infants can think that Guchkov and
   L'vov are sincere)--is unable to give the people either peace,
   bread, or freedom.

Published Pravda version: The government of the Octobrists and Kadets, of the Guchkovs and Miliukovs, is unable--even if it sincerely desired this--to give either peace or bread or freedom.

Lenin's original sentence, with its parenthetical statement within a parenthetical statement, is stylistically clumsy and hard to process. More important, the accusation of individual insincerity weakens the political point. Besides being somewhat implausible and hard to prove, the accusation implies that replacing these particular "bourgeois" politicians would at least help solve the problem. Many years earlier, the Russian Social Democrats had opposed physical assassination by pointing out that one dead tsarist minion would simply be replaced by another live one. The same logic holds true for character assassination. (30)

The closest approach to actual censorship of Lenin's views is the removal of a passing polemical remark about "defeatism." Not only did this excision involve no more than a single sentence, but Lenin himself seems to have rapidly adopted the attitude of the Petrograd Bolsheviks in this matter (see the discussion of Excision D in appendix 4).

Let us look at the question of censorship from another angle. The theme in Lenin's first letter most often identified as something bold and innovative (incorrectly, as discussed below) is his rhetoric about the revolution proceeding from a "first stage" to the present "transitional moment," then to a "second stage" of the revolution marked by proletarian victory. Here is where we should expect the censor's scissors to be slashing. Yet this theme is entirely untouched.

We are forced to conclude that if the Pravda editors wanted to censor Lenin, they botched the job big-time. They strained at gnats and let through camels. They removed nothing of essence and allowed Lenin to make all his big points loud and clear. If they felt threatened or scandalized by his basic message, they did not show it. Perhaps, then, we should consider the possibility that they did not feel threatened or scandalized and that the cuts they made were not motivated by a desire to censor the message of the party's vozhd.

The episode of the publication of Lenin's Letter throws a sharp and, I think, not unflattering light on the Bolshevik leadership in Petrograd. The Pravda editors worked at top speed to make the many changes needed for publication. Their editorial decisions reflected their independent and confident sense of Russian realities. Like any efficient staff, their aim was to make their boss look good--and they succeeded.


I have located three pieces of explicit evidence originating in March 1917 that the Bolsheviks in Petrograd, far from being scandalized by Lenin's Letter, asserted their complete solidarity with it. These endorsements come from a conversation between Lev Kamenev and Nikolai Sukhanov on 19 or 20 March, a telegram to Lenin from his sister Maria Ul'ianova on 22 March, and an extensive letter, dated 25 March, from Kollontai to Lenin.

In his fundamental memoir of 1917, Zapiski iz revoliutsii, Sukhanov reports a conversation between himself and Kamenev that took place prior to Lenin's return. We have to tread carefully when assessing a private conversation reported by one participant two years later. In my view, Kamenev's reported remarks, when translated properly, chime closely with his documented outlook during this period. Nevertheless, we should not rely on Sukhanov's exact wording. According to Sukhanov, this was the first time he talked to Kamenev after the latter's return to Petrograd:
   I started to ask Kamenev what in general was being done in his
   party and in what direction was a "line" being defined. What was
   Lenin thinking, what was he writing? We walked around the Catherine
   Hall for a long time as Kamenev tried to convince me that his party
   was taking or was about to take a completely (from my point of
   view) "reasonable" position. Judging by what he said, this position
   was close to the one taken by the soviet Zimmerwald center, if not
   identical with it. Lenin?
   Lenin thought that the revolution up to now had unfolded as might
   have been predicted [zakonomerno], that a bourgeois vlast ' was
   historically necessary right now and that there could not have been
   anything else after the overturn. (31)

      Then you are not yet trying to overthrow the elite [tsenzovoe]
   government right now [seichas] and do not insist on an immediate
   vlast 'of democracy?" I inquired further of my interlocutor, who
   was opening perspectives that were important for me.
      Neither we here nor Lenin over there have this point of view.
   Lenin writes that our urgent task now is to organize and mobilize
   our forces. (32)

According to Sukhanov, this conversation took place on 15 or 16 March. This date cannot be correct, at least for the part of the recorded conversation that interests us. Kamenev says, "Lenin writes that our urgent task now is to organize and mobilize our forces." This comment can refer only to the Letter. (33) Kamenev himself could not have read the Letter any earlier than 19 March. However, the Letter had evidently not been published at the time of the reported conversation. Thus we are left with a window of 19-20 March. Kamenevs comment is discussed further in the next section. What is important for us now is that in his conversation with Sukhanov, Kamenev expressed his solidarity with the soon-to-be published Letter.

The other two endorsements are documented more directly. On 22 March--the day that the second installment of Lenin's Letter appeared in Pravda--his sister Maria sent him the following telegram: "Articles received and printed. Full solidarity. Send articles. Kollontai has arrived. Your arrival desirable, but avoid risk." (34)

Maria states that Lenin's "articles" have already been published. The only possible explanation of the plural is the two-part publication in Pravda. The request for more articles implies that no other articles by Lenin were available at time of writing and that the editors were eager for more of Lenin's views, not scandalized by them. What is most important at present is Maria's assertion of "full solidarity" (polnaia solidarnost'). Maria was part of the Pravda editorial team, and she sent this telegram after all the excisions and modifications had been made. Either she was lying to her brother, or she thought that the editorial revisions had not interfered with Lenin's message.

On 26 March, Aleksandra Kollontai sent off a long letter to Lenin in Switzerland. This letter is a fascinating snapshot of the fast-evolving situation in Petrograd from a Bolshevik point of view. Crucial to our investigation is the following passage: "The beginning of your letters has been printed. Your voice is listened to not only by supporters [nashi] but by opponents ... We work closely together at Pravda, in full solidarity and without disputes [tesno, splochenno i bez trenii] ," (35) Kollontai's comment that "the beginning of your letters has been printed" does not contradict Maria Ul'ianova's assertion that Lenin's "articles" had already been published. Lenin himself made clear that the Letter was the first installment of a projected series.

Can we reconcile Kollontai's remarks with the standard story of frightened Pravda editors censoring Lenin's article? Consider. Kollontai at this time was extremely loyal to Lenin personally and insisted when still in Norway that Lenin provide "directives." She read the Letter as soon as she received it in Norway and pronounced herself "thrilled" with the ideas therein set forth. After she arrived in Russia, she worked with the Pravda editorial staff. She was therefore perfectly aware of the cuts made in Lenin's text--indeed, she undoubtedly participated in making them. Yet she expresses no outrage that Lenin had been censored or that his "thrilling" argument had been deformed. She does not even inform Lenin that cuts were made. Instead, she says that the Letter, far from causing scandal among the Bolsheviks, was treated with respect even by non-Bolsheviks. She also goes out of her way to emphasize the unanimity of views at Pravda. Unless we assume a phenomenal and inexplicable duplicity on Kollontai's part, her letter to Lenin is by itself enough to make the standard story untenable. (36)

The strong assurance given to Lenin by Ul'ianova and Kollontai, without any hint about the extensive excisions, gives rise to the following speculation: perhaps Lenin included a cover letter in which he explicitly preauthorized changes required by the rapidly changing political situation on the ground. Such a preauthorization would have been eminently sensible on Lenin's part and would account for the speed and unanimity with which the cuts seem to have been made. Of course, barring archival revelations, this hypothesis must remain pure speculation. (37)

To the explicit statements of solidarity by Kamenev, Ul'ianova, and Kollontai, we can add an argumentum ex silentio on Lenin's part. In general, Lenin did not take kindly to people fooling around with his text. In the prewar period, he regularly went ballistic about the way the Pravda editors in Russia treated his submissions. (38) After his return to Russia in April, he was unsparing in his criticism of Pravda and its editors for other reasons. He could also easily see for himself what had happened to the original draft of his Letter. Yet as far as available evidence goes, we do not hear a peep from him about the fate of his original draft. He does not repudiate the article or insist that a full text be printed forthwith. Indeed, he later refers in passing to the Pravda version as a valid statement of his views. (39) We cannot put too much weight on the curious fact of the Lenin who didn't bark--possibly he felt he had to choose his battles--but certainly his silence makes one think.

Another possible indication of Lenin's attitude is his own rhetoric after he returned to Russia. I have surveyed his articles and speeches in April and May to see what light they shed on this question. Of course, Lenin now adopts the standard terminology and refers to the Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies. I find no mention of embassy plots or the Provisional Government as a facade for the Romanov dynasty. Chkheidze, Kerenskii, and L'vov are back both as labels and individuals, although Irakli Tsereteli now occupies the prominent place in Lenin's rhetoric that he already played in reality at the time of the Letter's publication. The name calling is much reduced and rarely descends to personal abuse. For example, Tsereteli is not accused of being a hypocritical conman and a swindler--rather, he is "hopelessly muddled." (40)

One further silent comment on the nature of the editorial changes to Lenin's Letter is relevant to our investigation. The only reason we even know of the existence of these changes is the publication in 1949 of Lenin's original draft in the fourth edition of his works. We may say with complete assurance that this publication occurred with Stalin's knowledge and explicit authorization. From the point of view of Khrushchev-era historians such as Burdzhalov and Snegov, Stalin's publication of Lenin's draft was equivalent to a guilty man returning to the scene of the crime and planting new evidence of his own guilt--namely, his participation in censoring and distorting Lenin's views. How plausible is this account of Stalin's motives? Should we not assume that, surprising as it may seem, Stalin was proud of the job he and others did in preparing Lenin's article for publication? (41)

Leading the Revolution "To the End": The March Consensus

The political outlook of prewar Old Bolshevism was based on three affirmations about the upcoming Russian revolution and the "active forces" (deistvuiushchie sily) in Russian society that would shape its course. (42)

(1) The revolution is a process, and the mission of Russian Social Democracy is to lead it "to the end"--do kontsa, a key term in Bolshevik discourse, unfortunately obscured in the standard Lenin translations. The revolution would reach its end only after Russia had undergone a vast political and social transformation. The two key goals were highly ambitious: a republic more democratic than any existing in Western Europe, and the liquidation of the landowning pomeshchiki as a class. These aims had to be achieved during the revolutionary period itself. The sense of revolution as a drawn-out process is reflected in vocabulary such as "stages," "deepening and developing the revolution," and so forth.

(2) The Russian liberals--the most progressive force in Russian elite society--would try to take over leadership of the revolution for the express purpose of ensuring that it would not go "to the end," as defined above. According to the Bolsheviks, the liberals were afraid of the disruption sure to be caused by mass revolution, they were afraid of the militant proletariat, and they were afraid of full democratization. They were bound to turn counterrevolutionary sooner rather than later, seeking to halt the revolution midway and to make deals with "the reaction."

(3) Therefore, the leadership of the revolution must be wrested away from the liberals and entrusted to a narodnaia vlast--that is, a "provisional revolutionary government" based on "the democracy" consisting of workers, peasants, and the urban petty bourgeoisie. The only workable form for this would be a combination of political leadership contributed by the organized socialist proletariat and a mass base contributed by the rest of the narod. Only such a vlast' was capable of taking full advantage of the revolutionary period by carrying out a vast transformation of Russia "to the end." "Hegemony"--often employed by the Bolsheviks as a one-word summary of their outlook--refers primarily to the historical mission assigned to the Russian proletariat of combining ultimate socialist goals with here-and-now leadership of "the democracy." (43)

Far from being rendered automatically out of date by the February Revolution, this outlook mandated a very specific political strategy. Applying the Bolshevik template to unfolding events led to the following assertions: The Provisional Government, led by such figures as Guchkov and Miliukov, was bound to turn counterrevolutionary sooner rather than later. The job of "revolutionary Social Democrats" was therefore to begin preparations immediately for replacing it with a narodnaia vlast'. The obvious vehicle of such a vlast ' was the soviets that had sprung into existence as a result of the February Revolution. Assigning this role to the soviets was not yet based on any claim that they represented a "higher type of democracy," but instead on their ability to act as a vehicle for class power. Since the soviets were at present unwilling to take on the plenitude of power (vsia polnota vlasti), the Bolsheviks should organize popular forces, expose the Provisional Government as unable to meet revolutionary goals, and rally support around the soviets as organs of class power.

When Kamenev assured Sukhanov that Lenin and the Petrograd Bolsheviks were on the same page, he was referring to the strategy just outlined. Kamenev's remarks, quoted in the previous section, may be paraphrased as follows: Events are unfolding zakonomerno--that is, according to predictable regularities. A "bourgeois" government immediately after the fall of the tsar was no doubt inevitable. The situation is not ripe "yet" for an "immediate" overthrow of this bourgeois government. Our task is therefore to organize and mobilize to replace the present government with a vlast ' of democracy. This project will become practical politics as soon as "our forces" are ready. (44)

Kamenev's comments do not misrepresent Lenin's Letter. The first half of the Letter is in fact devoted to showing that events were unfolding zakonomerno, or, as Lenin put it, "with objective inevitability": the new "bourgeois" vlast ' was the result of a long prior development. Like Kamenev, Lenin did not believe that the Provisional Government could be replaced immediately but only after it had discredited itself and the proletariat had organized itself and the narod, as predicted in the second installment of the Letter:
   The cruel lessons of war, and they will be all the more cruel the
   more vigorously the war is prosecuted by Guchkov, L'vov, Miliukov,
   and Co., will inevitably push this mass toward the proletariat,
   compel it to follow the proletariat....

      The slogan, the "task of the day," at this moment must be:
   Workers, you have performed miracles of proletarian and popular
   [narodnyi] heroism, in the civil war against tsarism. You must
   perform miracles of proletarian and popular [obshchenarodnyi]
   organization to prepare for your victory in the second stage of the
   revolution, (45)

Lenin's Letter is structured by the idea of a transition from a "first stage" to a "second stage" of the revolution. The first stage was the February Revolution, when popular forces overthrew the tsar in a temporary and merely de facto alliance with elite forces. The second stage will occur when this alliance is rejected and a truly narodnaia vlast' is created. Lenin's talk about a "second stage" does not refer to the replacement of the "bourgeois-democratic revolution" in Russia by a "socialist one." Contrary to a widespread misconception, insistence on the "socialist character of the revolution" was not a necessary condition for the project of replacing the Provisional Government with a vlast' based on popular forces. (46) Indeed, this project was affirmed by the Bolsheviks not in spite o/the view that the current Russian revolution was "bourgeois-democratic" but because of it.

In his "Several Theses" of October 1915 (co-authored with Zinov'ev), Lenin set out a scenario in which the proletariat has two allies: the Russian narod for the democratic revolution at home, and the European proletariat for the socialist revolution abroad. These two revolutions are connected by the galvanizing inspiration that a thorough-going democratic revolution in Russia would have on the socialist proletariat in Europe--as already demonstrated, Lenin claimed, by the 1905 revolution. (47) In a letter of 17 March--that is, after writing all his Letters from Afar--Lenin stressed continuity: the theses of October 1915 "say directly, clearly, exactly how it would be, given a revolution in Russia, and they said it a year and a half before the revolution. These theses have been notably confirmed by the revolution to the letter." (48)

Accordingly, an identical scenario of the Russian proletariat's two allies is set forth in the final four paragraphs of the Letter. The only mention of socialism in the entire Letter occurs here, in the final sentence, where it clearly refers to the international socialist revolution. Just in case any ambiguity remained, the Letter directly affirmed the bourgeois label for the ongoing revolution in Russia (I quote here from Lenin's original draft):
   Ours is a bourgeois revolution, therefore, the workers must support
   the bourgeoisie, say the Potresovs, Gvozdevs, and Chkheidzes, as
   Plekhanov said yesterday.

      Ours is a bourgeois revolution--we, the Marxists, say--therefore
   the workers must open the eyes of the people to the deception
   practiced by the bourgeois politicos, teach them to put no faith in
   words, to depend entirely on their own strength, their own
   organization, their own unity, and their own arms.

Perhaps ironically, we find a much closer approximation to the later canonical slogan "all power to the Soviets" (vsia vlast' sovetam) in the March pronouncements of the Petrograd Bolsheviks than we do in Lenin's Letter. For example, Pravda editorials published on 14 March speak of the soviets receiving "full and complete power" (vsia polnota vlasti) as a vehicle of "dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry":
   We must realize that the paths of the democracy and of the
   Provisional Government will diverge--that, when the bourgeoisie
   comes to its senses, it will inevitably attempt to halt the
   revolutionary movement and not permit it to develop to the point of
   satisfying the essential needs of the proletariat and the
   peasantry.... This full satisfaction of their demands is possible
   only when full and complete power is in their own hands. Insofar as
   the revolution is going to develop and to deepen, it will come to
   this, to the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry....

      Calmly and dispassionately weighing our forces, we must use all
   our energy to gather, organize, and consolidate the revolutionary

   But there is no reason to force events. They are developing with
   immense speed by themselves....

      The active forces of the great revolution are working for us;
   they are exposing the inadequacy and the limitations of any attempt
   to solve the tasks of the revolution by means of compromise.... The
   slogan of the moment still remains: organization of the forces of the
   proletariat, consolidation of the forces of the proletariat,
   peasantry, and army by means of the Soviets of Deputies, absolute
   lack of belief [absoliutnoe nedoverie] in any liberal promises. (50)

We will call our revolution of 1917 at an end [zakonchennaia] only when the whole power belongs to the narod itself, when all remnants of the old regime will have been uprooted, when the army will be democratized, when all officials will be elected, when the eight-hour working day will be carried out in practice throughout all Russia, when the social foundation of gentry domination--the land--will be knocked out from under the honorable landlords and transferred to a democratic state. (51)

Although Lenin was undoubtedly thinking along the same lines, he expresses himself more circumspectly. The term vlast ' is found in his Letter only in reference to the bourgeois vlast' embodied by the Provisional Government. The goal of a soviet vlast' must be deduced from scattered passages such as the following:
   The Guchkovs and Miliukovs have proclaimed [the revolution]
   "glorious" because it has given the vlast' to them (sofar).

   The Soviet of Worker [and Soldier] Deputies is the embryo
   [zarodysh] of a worker government, the representative of the
   interests of all the poorest masses of the population--that is, of
   nine-tenths of the population, striving for peace, bread, ma

   The only guarantee of freedom and of the destruction of tsarism to
   the end is arming the proletariat, the strengthening, extending,
   and developing of the role, significance, and strength of the
   Soviet of Worker [and Soldier] Deputies.

   The proletariat, using the peculiarities of the present
   transitional moment, can and will proceed, first, toward the
   achievement of a democratic republic and complete victory of the
   peasantry over the landlords.

The question naturally arises: was the March consensus among Bolsheviks replaced by something fundamentally different as a result of the debates in April over Lenin's theses that set forth a new strategy that was crucial to Bolshevik success in October? This question requires a detailed response that cannot be undertaken here. (52) But a provisional answer is suggested by the following mental experiment (suggested, appropriately enough, by the 2003 German film Good Bye, Lenin!). Someone interested in political events--say, an observer from one of the embassies--reads Pravda attentively during the month of March. Our observer promptly goes into a coma at the end of the month and regains consciousness only in mid-November. What does he say to himself after reading the papers and catching up on events? I suggest something like the following:
   Well, I see that the Bolsheviks acted according to the strategy set
   forth in Pravda back in March by Lenin and his fellow party
   leaders. They mounted agitational campaigns to press home the
   Provisional Government's failure to respond effectively to the
   national crisis, due to the inherently counterrevolutionary nature
   of Russian elites; they continually drove home the idea of a
   narodnaia vlast in the fullness of time they created a government
   that derived its legitimacy from the soviets. And I observe that
   they are now taking immediate steps to carry out the goals stated
   in those March editorials: peace proposals and land to the
   peasants. So far, their strategy seems to have paid off--but let's
   see what happens next!

3555 Marlowe Ave. Montreal, QC Canada H4A 3L8

Appendix 1: Lenin's Letter from Afar as printed in Pravda, 21-22 March 1917

[The location of cuts made by Pravda editors is indicated by bracketed letters A to Z; the excised passages can be found in appendix 2. Text in brackets was added by the Pravda editors.]

[Pravda, 21 March 1917, 2-7]

First Stage of the First Revolution (Letters from Afar, First Letter)

The first revolution born out of the global imperialist war has broken out. This first revolution, for certain, will not be the last.

The first stage of this first revolution, namely, the Russian revolution of 1 March 1917, judging by the scanty information [at the disposal of the writer of these lines] in Switzerland, has ended. This first stage, for certain, will not be the last stage of our revolution.

How could such a "miracle" happen, that in eight days--the period indicated by Mr. Miliukov in his boastful telegram to all Russia's representatives abroad--a monarchy that has held on for centuries, and that in spite of everything had managed to hold out during three years of the tremendous, nationwide [vsenarodnoe] class battles of 1905-7, could utterly collapse?

Miracles in nature or history do not exist, but every abrupt turn in history--including every revolution--presents such a wealth of content, unfolds such unexpected and idiosyncratic combinations of forms of struggle and alignment of fighting forces, that to the philistine mind there is much that must appear miraculous.

A combination of a whole series of conditions of world-historic importance was required for the tsarist monarchy to collapse in a few days. Let us point out the main ones.

Without the three years of tremendous class battles and the revolutionary energy of the Russian proletariat in 1905-7, the second revolution could not possibly have been so rapid in the sense that its initial stage was completed in a few days. The first revolution (1905) deeply ploughed the soil, uprooted age-old prejudices, awakened millions of workers and tens of millions of peasants to political life and political struggle and revealed to one another-and to the whole world--all classes (and all the principal parties) of Russian society in their true character and in the actual alignment of their interests, their forces, their modes of action, and their immediate and ultimate aims. This first revolution, and the succeeding period of counterrevolution (190714), laid bare the very essence of the tsarist monarchy, led it to its "utmost limit," exposed all the rottenness and vileness, all the cynicism and corruption of the tsar's clique, with that monster, Rasputin, at its head. It exposed all the bestiality of the Romanov family--those pogrom-mongers who drenched Russia in the blood of Jews, workers, and revolutionaries, those "first among equals" of the landlords, owning millions of acres of land and ready for any brutality, for any crime, for the ruination and crushing of any number of citizens, all for the sake of preserving this "sacred right of property" for themselves and their class.

Without the revolution of 1905-7 and the counterrevolution of 190714, there could not have been that clear "self-definition" of all classes of the Russian people and of the peoples inhabiting Russia, that clarification of the relation of these classes to one another and to the tsarist monarchy, which manifested itself during the eight days of the February-March Revolution of 1917. This eight-day revolution was "performed," if we may use a metaphorical expression, as though after a dozen major and minor rehearsals; the "actors" knew each other, their parts, their places, and their setting in every detail, through and through, down to any more or less significant nuance in political tendencies and ways of operating.

Thus the first and great revolution of 1905, which the Guchkovs and Miliukovs and their hangers-on condemn as a "mighty mutiny," led after twelve years to the "brilliant," the "glorious" revolution of 1917--the Guchkovs and Miliukovs have proclaimed it "glorious" because it has given the power [vlast] to them (so far). But this outcome required a great, mighty, and all-powerful "theatrical producer," capable, on the one hand, of vastly accelerating the course of world history and, on the other, of giving birth to worldwide crises of unparalleled intensity--economic, political, national, and international. In addition to the extraordinary acceleration of world history, there were also needed particularly abrupt turns, in order that at one such turn the cart of the filthy and blood-stained Romanov monarchy should be overturned at a stroke.

This all-powerful "theatrical producer," this mighty accelerator, was the global imperialist war.

Now it can no longer be doubted that this war is indeed global, for the USA and China have already been half-dragged in today, and will be fully involved tomorrow.

Now it can no longer be doubted that this war is imperialist on both sides. Only the capitalists and their hangers-on, the social-patriots and socialchauvinists, [A] can deny or suppress this fact. Both the German and the AngloFrench bourgeoisie are waging the war for the plunder of foreign countries and the crushing of small nations, for financial supremacy over the world and the sharing and resharing of colonies, and in order to save the doomed capitalist regime by fooling and disuniting the workers of the various countries.

It was objectively inevitable that the imperialist war should have immensely accelerated and intensified to an unprecedented degree the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie and now transforms itself into a civil war between hostile classes.

This transformation has begun with the February-March Revolution of 1917, whose first stage showed us, first, a joint blow at tsarism struck by two forces: one, the whole of bourgeois and landlord Russia, with all her unenlightened hangers-on and all her very enlightened managers, the British and French ambassadors and capitalists, and the other, the Soviet of Worker [and Soldier] Deputies [B],

These three political camps, these three fundamental political forces--(1) the tsarist monarchy--the head of the feudal landlords, the head of the old bureaucracy and of the high military command; (2) bourgeois and landlord Octobrist--Kadet Russia, with the petty bourgeoisie [C] following in its wake; and (3) the Soviet of Worker [and Soldier] Deputies, which is looking to make the entire proletariat and the entire mass of the poorest population its allies-these three fundamental political forces fully and clearly revealed themselves even in the eight-day "first stage" and even to an observer so remote from the scene of events as the present writer, who is obliged to content himself with meager foreign press dispatches.

But before dealing with this in greater detail, I must return to the part of my letter devoted to a factor of prime importance--namely, the global imperialist war.

The war shackled the belligerent powers, the belligerent groups of capitalists, the "bosses" of the capitalist system, the slave owners of the capitalist slave system, to each other with chains of iron. One bloody clot--such is the social and political life of the historical moment we are now living through.

The socialists who went over to the bourgeoisie on the outbreak of the war--all these Davids and Scheidemanns in Germany, these Plekhanovs, Potresovs, Gvozdevs, and Co. in Russia--clamored loud and long against the "illusions" of the revolutionaries, against the "illusions" of the Basel Manifesto, against the "farcical dream" of transforming the imperialist war into a civil war. They sang praises in every key to the strength, tenacity, and adaptability allegedly revealed by capitalism--the very ones who helped the capitalists "adapt," tame, fool, and disunite the working classes of the various countries!

But "he who laughs last laughs best." The bourgeoisie has been unable to delay for long the revolutionary crisis to which the war has given birth. This crisis is growing with irresistible force in all countries, beginning with Germany, which is experiencing "brilliantly organized hunger," as an observer who recently visited that country put it, and ending with England and France, where hunger is also looming, but where organization reveals much less "brilliance."

It was natural that the revolutionary crisis should have broken out before anywhere else in tsarist Russia, where the disorganization was the most appalling and the proletariat was the most revolutionary (not by virtue of any special qualities, but because of the living traditions of "'05"). This crisis was accelerated by the series of extremely severe defeats sustained by Russia and her allies. The defeats shook up the entire old mechanism of government, the entire old order, and roused the anger of all classes of the population against it; they embittered the army, wiped out a very large part of the old body of commanders, composed of backward gentry and an exceptionally rotten officialdom, and replaced it with a young and buoyant one of a predominantly bourgeois, socially mobile [raznochinskii], and petty-bourgeois origin. [D]

But while the defeats in the war were a negative factor that accelerated the explosion, the tie linking Anglo-French finance capital, Anglo-French imperialism, and Russian Octobrist-Kadet capital was a factor that accelerated this crisis. [E]

This highly important aspect of the situation is, for obvious reasons, hushed up by the Anglo-French press and maliciously emphasized by the German. We who are Marxists must soberly look truth in the face and not allow ourselves to be confused either by the lying officialese, the sugary diplomatic and ministerial lies, of the first group of imperialist belligerents, or by the sniggering and smirking of their financial and military rivals from the other belligerent group. The whole course of events in the February-March Revolution clearly shows that the British and French embassies, with their agents and "connections," had long been making the most desperate efforts to prevent "separate" agreements and a separate peace between Nicholas II (but let us hope and strive to make him "the last") and Wilhelm II, and they directly [F] [strove] to remove Nicholas Romanov.

Let us not harbor any illusions. [G]

That the revolution succeeded so quickly and--seemingly, at the first superficial glance--so "radically," is due only to the fact that, as a result of an extremely unique historical situation, absolutely dissimilar currents, absolutely heterogeneous class interests, absolutely contrary political and social strivings have merged together, and merged in a strikingly "harmonious" manner. Indeed, the plot of the Anglo-French imperialists who put pressure on Miliukov, Guchkov, and Co. to seize power for the purpose of continuing the imperialist war, for the purpose of conducting the war still more ferociously and obstinately, for the purpose of slaughteringfresh millions of Russian workers and peasants in order that the Guchkovs might obtain Constantinople, the French capitalists Syria, the British capitalists Mesopotamia, and so on. This on the one hand. On the other, there was a profound proletarian and mass popular [narodnoe] movement of a revolutionary character (a movement of the entire poorest population of the cities and villages) for bread, for peace, for realfreedom.

[H] The revolutionary workers [and soldiers] [I] have destroyed to its foundations the infamous tsarist monarchy. They are neither elated nor dismayed by the fact that at certain brief historical moments of an exceptional combination of circumstances they are aided by the struggle of Buchanan, Guchkov, Miliukov, and Co. to replace one monarch by another [J].

Thus, and only thus, did matters stand. Thus, and only thus, must be the view of the politician who does not fear the truth, who soberly weighs the balance of social forces in the revolution, who appraises every "current situation" not only from the standpoint of all its present, ephemeral peculiarities but also from the standpoint of the more fundamental motives, the deeper interrelations of the interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, both in Russia and throughout the world.

The workers [and soldiers] of Petrograd, like the workers [and soldiers] of the whole of Russia, self-sacrificingly fought the tsarist monarchy--fought for freedom, land for the peasants, and for peace against the imperialist slaughter. To continue and intensify that slaughter, Anglo-French imperialist capital hatched court intrigues, set up a plot [K], incited and encouraged the Guchkovs and Miliukovs, and fixed up a new government that was ready and waiting and that in fact did seize power after the very first blows delivered to tsarism by the proletarian struggle.

[L] This government is not a fortuitous assemblage of persons.

It is made up of the representatives of the new class that has risen to political power in Russia, the class of capitalist landlords and bourgeoisie which has long been ruling our country economically. This class, not only during the revolution of 1905-7 but also during the counterrevolutionary period of 1907-14, and finally--and with especial rapidity--during the war period of 1914-17, was quick to organize itself politically, taking into its hands local government bodies and education of the people and congresses of various types and the Duma and the war industries committees, and so on. This new class was already "almost completely" in power by 1917, and the first blows to tsarism were sufficient to bring it to the ground and thereby clear the way for the bourgeoisie. The imperialist war, which required an incredible exertion of effort, so accelerated the development of backward Russia that we have "at one stroke" (actually just seemingly at one stroke) caught up with Italy, England, and almost with France: we have obtained a government based on a "coalition," a "national" (i.e., adapted for carrying on the imperialist slaughter and for fooling the people) and a "parliamentary" one.

Side by side with this government--which as regards the present war is essentially the agent of the billion-dollar "firm" "England and France"--there has arisen a [new] [M], unofficial, undeveloped, and still comparatively weak worker government, which expresses the interests of the proletariat and the whole poorest urban and rural population. This is the Soviet of Worker [and Soldier] Deputies in Petrograd [N].

Such is the actual political situation, which we must first endeavor to establish with the greatest possible objective precision, in order that we may base Marxist tactics on the only solid foundation upon which they should be based--the foundation offacts.

N. Lenin

[To be continued.]

[Pravda, 22 March 1917, 2-4]

First Stage of the First Revolution (Letters from Afar, First Letter) (Conclusion)

The tsarist monarchy has been smashed but not finally destroyed.

The Octobrist-Kadet bourgeois government, which wants to fight the imperialist war "to the end," and which in reality is the agent of the financial firm "England and France," is forced to promise the people the maximum of liberties and sops compatible with the preservation of this government s power over the people and the possibility of continuing the imperialist slaughter.

The Soviet of Worker [and Soldier] Deputies is [O] the embryo of a worker government, the representative of the interests of all the poorest masses of the population--that is, of nine-tenths of the population, striving for peace, bread, and freedom.

The struggle among these three forces determines the situation that has now arisen, a situation that is transitional from the first to the second stage of the revolution. [P]

If there is to be a real struggle against the tsarist monarchy, if freedom is to be guaranteed in fact and not merely in words, not in the promises of the phrase mongers [QJ [of liberalism], it is necessary not that the workers support the new government, but that this government "support" the workers! For the only guarantee of freedom and of the destruction of tsarism to the end is arming the proletariat, the strengthening, extending, and developing of the role, significance, and strength of the Soviet of Worker [and Soldier] Deputies.

All the rest is mere phrases and lies, self-deception on the part of the politicos of the liberal and radical camp [R],

Help, or at least do not hinder, the arming of the workers--and freedom in Russia will be invincible, the monarchy unrestorable, the republic secure.

[S] [Otherwise the people will be deceived. Promises are cheap; promises cost nothing.] All bourgeois politicos in all bourgeois revolutions use promises to "nourish" the people and fool the workers.

Ours is a bourgeois revolution, therefore, the workers must support the bourgeoisie, [T] [say the worthless politicians from the camp of the liquidators.]

Ours is a bourgeois revolution--we, the Marxists, say--therefore the workers must open the eyes of the people to the deception practiced by the bourgeois politicos, teach them to put no faith in words, to depend entirely on their own strength, their own organization, their own unity, and their own arms.

The government of the Octobrists and Kadets, of the Guchkovs and Miliukovs, is unable--even if it sincerely desired this [U]--to give either peace or bread or freedom.

It cannot give peace because it is a war government, a government for the continuation of the imperialist slaughter, a government [V] [of conquest that has not uttered one word to renounce the tsarist policy of the conquest of] Armenia, Galicia, and Turkey, of capturing Constantinople, of reconquering Poland, Courland, Lithuania, and so on. It is a government bound hand and foot by Anglo-French imperialist capital. Russian capital is merely a branch of the worldwide "firm" that manipulates hundreds of billions of rubles and is called "England and France."

It cannot give bread because it is a bourgeois government. At best, it can give the people "hunger organized with genius," as Germany has done. But the people will not accept famine. The people will discover, and probably very soon, that there is bread and that it can be obtained, but not otherwise than by methods that do not respect the sanctity of capital and landownership.

It cannot give freedom because it is a landlord and capitalist government that fears the people [W].

In another article, we will speak of the tasks of our short-term tactical conduct toward this government. In it, we shall explain the peculiarity of the present situation, a transition from the first to the second stage of the revolution, and why the slogan, the "task of the day," at this moment must be: Workers, you have performed miracles of proletarian and popular heroism, in the civil war against tsarism. You must perform miracles of proletarian and popular organization to prepare for your victory in the second stage of the revolution.

Confining ourselves at present to an analysis of the class struggle and the alignment of class forces at this stage of the revolution, we have still to put the question: who are the proletariat's allies in this revolution?

It has two allies: first, the broad mass of the semiproletarian and, partly, of the small-peasant population, who number scores of millions and constitute the overwhelming majority of the population of Russia. For this mass, peace, bread, freedom, and land are essential. It is inevitable that to a certain extent this mass will inevitably find itself under a certain influence of the bourgeoisie, and particularly of the petty bourgeoisie, to which it is most akin in its conditions of life, vacillating between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The cruel lessons of war, and they will be all the more cruel the more vigorously the war is prosecuted by Guchkov, L'vov, Miliukov, and Co., will inevitably push this mass toward the proletariat, compel it to follow the proletariat. We must now take advantage of the [X] freedom of the new order and of the Soviets of Worker [and Soldier] Deputies to enlighten and organize this mass first of all and above all. Soviets of Peasant Deputies and Soviets of Agricultural Workers--here is one of the [Y] [most essential] tasks. We will thereby strive not only for the agricultural workers to establish their own separate soviets but also for the propertyless and poorest peasants to organize separately from the well-off peasants. The special tasks and special forms of organization urgently needed at the present time will be dealt with in the next letter.

Second, the ally of the Russian proletariat is the proletariat of all the belligerent countries and of all countries in general. At present, this ally is to a large degree crushed by the war, and all too often the social-chauvinists who have gone over to the bourgeoisie in Europe--just like Plekhanov, Gvozdev, and Potresov in Russia--speak in its name. But the liberation of the proletariat from their influence has progressed with every month of the imperialist war, and the Russian revolution will inevitably hasten this process tremendously.

With these two allies, the proletariat, using the peculiarities of the present transitional moment, can and will proceed, first, toward the achievement of a democratic republic and complete victory of the peasantry over the landlords [Z], and then toward socialism, which alone can give peace, bread, and freedom to the peoples devastated by war.

N. Lenin

Appendix 2: Excised Passages

Excised passages are cued by letter to the text of the Letter provided in appendix 1.

A: [The Pmvda version does not contain the following words:] or--if instead of general critical definitions we use political names familiar in Russia--only the Guchkovs and L'vovs, Miliukovs and Shingarevs, on the one hand, and only the Gvozdevs, Potresovs, Chkhenkelis, Kerenskiis, and Chkheidzes, on the other,

B: [the Pmvda version changes "Soviet of Worker Deputies" to "Soviet of Worker and Soldier Deputies" here and throughout the article (later instances are not flagged). Furthermore, the Pmvda version does not contain the following words:]

which has begun to draw to itself the soldier and peasant deputies

C: [The Pmvda version does not contain the following words:]

(whose principal representatives are Kerenskii and Chkheidze)

D: [The Pmvda version does not contain the following words:]

Those who, openly groveling to the bourgeoisie or simply lacking backbone, howled and wailed against "defeatism," are now faced by the fact of the historical connection between the defeat of the extremely backward and barbarous tsarist monarchy and the beginning of the revolutionary conflagration.

E: [The Pmvda version does not contain the following words:]

by means of a direct [priamo-taki\ organization of a plot against Nicholas Romanov.

F: [The Pmvda version does not contain the following passage:]

organized a plot together with the Octobrists and Kadets, together with a section of the generals and the officer staff of the army and the St. Petersburg garrison, specifically

[The passage is replaced by the following word:] strove

G: [The Pmvda version does not contain the following words:]

Let us not make the mistake of those who--like certain "O.C." supporters or "Mensheviks" who are oscillating between the Gvozdev-Potresov line and internationalism and who only too often slip into petty-bourgeois pacifism-are now ready to extol "pact making" \soglashenie] between the workers' party and the Kadets, "support" of the latter by the former, and so on. In conformity with the old (and by no means Marxist) doctrine that they have learned by rote, they are trying to throw a veil over the plot of the Anglo-French imperialists along with the Guchkovs and Miliukovs aimed at removing the

"chief warrior," Nicholas Romanov, and putting more energetic, fresh, and more capable warriors in his place.

H: [The Pravda version does not contain the following words:]

It would simply be foolish to speak of the revolutionary proletariat of Russia "supporting" Kadet--Octobrist imperialism, which has been "patched up" [smetannyi] with English money and is as abominable as tsarist imperialism.

I: [From the following passage:]

were destroying, have destroyed already to a considerable degree and will continue to destroy [razrushali, razrushili ... budet razrushat'j [the Pravda version retains only the following:] have destroyed [razrushili]

j: [The Pravda version does not contain the following words:] monarch and preferably a Romanov!

K: [The Pravda version does not contain the following words:] with the officers of the Guards

L: [The Pravda version does not contain the following words:]

This new government, in which L'vov and Guchkov of the Octobrists and Peaceful Renovation Party, yesterdays abettors of Stolypin the Hangman, control the posts of real importance, the crucial posts, the decisive posts, the army and the bureaucracy--this government, in which Miliukov and the other Kadets serve mostly for decoration, for a signboard, for sugary professorial speeches, and the "Trudovik" Kerenskii plays the role of a balalaika for gulling the workers and peasants- M: [In the Pravda version, the word "new" replaces the word "chief" (glavnoe) in Lenin's original.]

N: [The Pravda version does not contain the following words:]

which is seeking ties with the soldiers and peasants, and with the agricultural workers, with the latter particularly and first of all, of course, more than with the peasants

O: [The Pravda version does not contain the following words:] an organization of workers,

P: [The Pravda version does not contain the following words:]

The antagonism between the first and second force is not profound, it is temporary, the result solely of the present conjuncture of circumstances, of the abrupt turn of events in the imperialist war. The entire new government is monarchist, for Kerenskii's verbal republicanism simply cannot be taken seriously, is not worthy of a statesman, and objectively is political chicanery. The new government has not yet finished off the tsarist monarchy before it has begun to make a deal with the landlord Romanov dynasty. The bourgeoisie of the Octobrist--Kadet type needs a monarchy to serve as the head of the bureaucracy and the army in order to protect the privileges of capital against the working people.

He who says that the workers must support the new government in the interests of the struggle against tsarist reaction (and apparently this is being said by the Potresovs, Gvozdevs, Chkhenkelis, and, all evasiveness notwithstanding, by Chkheidze) is a traitor to the workers, a traitor to the cause of the proletariat, to the cause of peace and freedom. For actually, precisely this new government is already bound hand and foot by imperialist capital, by the imperialist policy of war and plunder, has already begun to make deals (without consulting the people!) with the dynasty, is already working to restore the tsarist monarchy, is already soliciting the candidature of Mikhail Romanov as the new kinglet, is already taking measures to prop up the throne, to substitute for the legitimate (lawful, ruling by virtue of established law) monarchy a Bonapartist, plebiscite monarchy (maintains itself by virtue of a fraudulent popular vote).


Q: [The Pravda version replaces the following words:]

Miliukov and Kerenskii [with the following:] of liberalism

R: [The Pravda version does not contain the following words:], conman swindles

S: [The Pravda version does not contain the following words:]

Otherwise the Guchkovs and Miliukovs will restore the monarchy and grant none, absolutely none, of the "liberties" they promised.

[Instead, the following words appear:]

Otherwise the people will be deceived. Promises are cheap; promises cost nothing.

T: [The Pravda version does not contain the following words:]

say the Potresovs, Gvozdevs, and Chkheidzes, as Plekhanov said yesterday. [Instead, the following words appear:]

say the worthless politicians from the camp of the liquidators.

U: [Of the following words, the Pravda version retains only "to give":] (only infants can think that Guchkov and L'vov are sincere) to give the people

V: [The Pravda version does not contain the following words:] of plunder, one that wants to plunder [Instead, the following words appear:]

of conquest that has not uttered one word to renounce the tsarist policy of the conquest of

W: [The Pravda version does not contain the following words:]

and has already begun to make deals with the Romanov dynasty

X: [The Pravda version does not contain the following word:] relative

Y: [In the Pravda version, "most essential" [nasushchneishie] replaces "most serious" [ser iezneishie] in Lenin's original.]

Z: [The Pravda version does not contain the following words:] instead of the Guchkov-Miliukov semimonarchy.

(1) All dates in this article are Old Style (13 days behind the normal Western calendar). The article also contains two additional appendices (3: "One or Two Letters?" and 4: "Ad Hoc Excisions"), which are available in PDF format at ( after January 2016).

(2) Alexander Rabinowitch, Prelude to Revolution: The Petrograd Bobheviks and the July 1917 Uprising (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968), 36 (editorial additions in brackets by Rabinowitch). I cite Rabinowitch on this topic, not only because of the authoritative status of his studies of Bolshevism in 1917, but also because he backs up his interpretation with textual evidence--a rather unusual procedure on this topic. For a recent version of the standard account, see Oleg V. Khlevniuk, Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015).

(3) For a detailed discussion, see appendix 3, "One Letter or Two?" The conclusions presented here are based on strong circumstantial evidence, but note the overlooked comment by Trotskii in 1924 that "most of [the Letters from Afar] never made it to Pravda" (see G. E. Zinov'ev et al., eds., Ob "Urokakh Oktiahria" [Leningrad: Priboi, 1924], 230).

(4) The first Letter from Afar will henceforth be referred to simply as the Letter.

(5) I. Dazhina, "'V vodovorote novoi Rossii': Pis'ma A. M. Kollontai V. I. Leninu i N. K. Krupskoi v Shveitsariiu," Novyi mir, no. 4 (1967): 240 (the ellipses are in this source, and it is unclear whether they are editorial or not).

(6) For a description of her trip, see Cathy Porter, Alexandra Kollontai: The Lonely Struggle of the Woman Who Defied Lenin (New York: Dial, 1980), 241-43.

(7) The Letter was reprinted in Bolshevik newspapers in Tallinn, Moscow, Kiev, Kronstadt, Khar'kov, and Kazan before Lenin's return in early April, and Helsingfors and the Petrograd Vyborg district afterward. This is a surprisingly wide circulation for such an allegedly scandalous article. For details, see Vladimir II 'ich Lenin: Biograficheskaia khronika (Moscow: Gosizdat, 1973), 4:34, 37, 40, 41, 44, 46, 53, 73, 116.

(8) The full text of the editorial note reads as follows: "'Letter 1. First Stage of the First Revolution was printed in nos. 14 and 15 of Pravda, 21-22 March 1917, with extensive abridgments and corrections. In the second and third editions of the works of V. I. Lenin, this writing was printed according to the text of the newspaper Pravda-, in the fourth edition, it is being printed according to the text of the typewritten copy, checked against the text of Pravda. The remaining four letters were published in 1924" (Lenin, Sochineniia [Moscow: Gosizdat, 1949], 23:387-88). (The so-called Fifth Letter is a very short unfinished draft penned on the eve of Lenin's departure for Russia.)

(9) Eduard N. Burdzhalov writes: "the editorial board of Pravda excised those places in Lenin's Letter from Afar in which he criticized the Provisional Government, the SRs, and the Mensheviks with particular sharpness, or where he mentioned the names of Kerenskii, Chkheidze, and several other SRs and Mensheviks" ("O taktike bol'shevikov v marte-aprele 1917 godu," Voprosy istorii, no. 4 [1956]: 49).

(10) A. V. Snegov, "Neskol'ko stranits iz istorii partii (mart-nachalo aprelia 1917 g.)," Voprosy istorii KPSS, no. 2 (1963): 15-30.

(11) For documentation of the complicated dynamics within the Pravda editorial board in March, see Aleksandr Shliapnikov, Kanun semnadtsatogo goda; Semnadtsatyi god, 3 vols. (Moscow: Gosizdat, 1992-94), 2:427, 452 (Shliapnikov says not a word about Lenin's Letter). See also "Protokoly i rezoliutsii Biuro TsK RSDRP(b) (man 1917)," Voprosy istorii KPSS, no. 3 (1962): 148. Later comments by the bureau seem to indicate that Kamenev continued to have a large influence, much to the bureau's displeasure (150).

(12) In an account drafted during the Stalin era that is unreliable and garbled on a number of points, Kollontai mentions a meeting of the Bureau of the Central Committee on 20 March to consider "Lenin's letter" (although she then quotes from Lenin's earlier telegram that arrived in Russia on 13 March). See Aleksandra Kollontai, Iz moei zhizni i raboty (Moscow: Gosizdat, 1974), 248. Both here and in her letter to Lenin of 26 March (cited below), Kollontai emphasizes the absence of serious disputes.

(13) In addition to the Letters from Afar, one article by Lenin that arrived before his return was not published because its subject, the exposed police spy Miron Chernomazov, was no longer deemed topical (see Shliapnikov, Kanun semnadtsatogo goda, 3:269). See also appendix 3 for thoughts on the publishability of Letter 2, although this letter almost certainly did not arrive before Lenin's return.

(14) In the sixth paragraph, Lenin describes the Romanovs as landowners "owning" millions of acres of land. Lenin used the word obladaiushchikh-, the editors changed this to vladeiushchikh. Whatever nuance the editors had in mind, it is not reflected in the standard Soviet translations, since "owning" is used for each text.

(15) For example, "inevitable" is used once in the antepenultimate paragraph and once in the penultimate paragraph. In the first case, Lenin's emphasis is removed, and in the second case emphasis is added by the editors. (For an example of a more meaningful addition of emphasis to a word, see the discussion of Excision V in appendix 4.)

(16) In an article written in New York on 6 March for a Russian-language newspaper, Trotskii mentioned soldier soviets: "Consequently, now, immediately, the revolutionary proletariat ought to counter its revolutionary institutions, the soviets of workers', peasants', and soldiers' deputies, to the executive institutions of the Provisional Government." When these articles were reprinted in 1924, the titles of the soviets were capitalized. My thanks to Ian Thatcher for kindly checking the original texts of the articles in Novyi mir; I have used the translation provided by Thatcher and James White in Journal of Trotsky Studies 1, 113 (1993). For background on these articles, see Ian Thatcher, Leon Trotsky and World War One: August 1914-February 1917 (New York: Macmillan, 2000).

(17) Dazhina, "V vodovorote," 237.

(18) See Shliapnikov, Kanun semnadtsatogo goda, 3:264-81.

(19) Sukhanov was shocked at the coldness of the Soviet leadership on this matter (as related in Israel Getzler, Nikolai Sukhanov: Chronicler of the Russian Revolution [New York: Palgrave, 2002], 48-49).

(20) V. I. Lenin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (hereafter PSS), 5th ed., 55 vols. (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1967-70), 49:419.

(21) This motive is noted by lu. V. Emelianov; apart from this valuable insight, his account repeats the usual misconceptions about this episode (Stalin: Put ' k vlasti [Moscow: Veche, 2003], 249).

(22) Shliapnikov gives the text of a letter he drafted but that was signed by Chkheidze and sent in the name of the Soviet Executive Committee to Prince G. E. L'vov as chairman of the Council of Ministers (Kanun semnadtsatogo goda, 3:266).

(23) The minor figures Andrei Shingarev (Kadet) and Akakii Chkhenkeli (Menshevik) were only eliminated, one assumes, because of the company they keep in passages such as this.

(24) See Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, The February Revolution (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1981), on the position of foreign delegations (181-82) and liberal conspirators (185-97).

(25) Lenin was, of course, correct that Miliukov and others wanted a monarchy and strove mightily to keep some remnant of the dynasty in place during the early days of the revolution.

(26) Lenin also seems to have confused G. E. L'vov, the head of the first Provisional Government, with N. N. L'vov, one of the leaders of the prewar conservative reform party Peaceful Renovation (see Excision L). On the first Provisional Government, see V. I. Startsev, Vnutrenniaia politika Vremennogo Pravitel'stva (Leningrad: Nauka, 1980).

(27) The minutes of the March conference can be found in Lev Trotskii, Stalinskaia shkola fal'sifikatsii: Popravki i dopolneniia k literature epigonov (Berlin: Granit, 1932); for Stalins remark, see 232. Note that Stalin's remark creates severe problems for the usual claim that he and Kamenev offered conditional support for the Provisional Government.

(28) In September, Lenin admitted that the Kadets could and would tolerate republicanism CPSS, 34:258).

(29) The passage is given here in my translation.

(30) Zinov'ev, in an article published in Pravda on 25-26 March, asserts that the anti-narodnyi nature of the Provisional Government does not "depend on the good or evil will of given governmental figures." In an article published on 21 April, Lenin similarly argues that we should not judge political opponents by their sincerity or lack thereof (PSS, 31:297-99).

(31) "Lenin schitaet, chto revoliutsiia do sikh por sovershalas' vpolne zakonomerno, chto burzhuaznaia vlast' seichas istoricheski neobkhodima i inoi ne moglo byt' posle perevorota." The English edition of Nikolai Sukhanovs memoir is unusable for investigation of this issue, due to misleading translations and unmarked cuts (The Russian Revolution, ed. Joel Carmichael [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955]). For example, this key sentence is rendered as "Lenin thought that up to now the revolution was being accomplished quite properly and that a bourgeois government was now historically indispensable" (226-27)--an inaccurate, incomplete, and tendentious translation.

(32) Nikolai Sukhanov, Zapiski o revoliutsii, 3 vols. (Moscow: Izdatel'stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1991), 1:273.

(33) The only earlier text from Lenin is the short telegram sent on 6 March and received in Petrograd on 13 March, but this telegram contains no analysis of the postrevolutionary situation and no exhortation to organize.

(34) M. I. Ul'ianova, O Vladimire II iche Lenine i sem 'e Ul 'ianovykh: Vospominaniia, pis 'ma, ocberki (Moscow: Polizdat, 1978), 204 (complete text). See appendix 3 for further discussion of this telegram.

(35) Dazhina, "V vodovorote," 238.

(36) Beatrice Farnsworth's biography of Kollontai provided me with the reference to Kollontai's letter to Lenin of 26 March. Although Farnsworth cites this letter and realizes that it does not fit the standard picture, she minimizes the damage done and endorses the claims of Soviet historians about the rejection of Lenin's Letter by the Petrograd leadership (Aleksandra Kollontai: Socialism, Feminism, and the Bolshevik Revolution [Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1980], 70-72).

(37) Compare his remarks at the beginning of a similar letter from afar, written in November 1905 on the subject of the Petrograd Soviet: "I consider it absolutely necessary to make a most important reservation. I am speaking as an onlooker. I still have to write from that accursed 'afar,' from the hateful 'abroad' of an exile. And it is all but impossible for anyone to form a correct opinion of this concrete, practical matter if he has not been in St. Petersburg, if he has never seen the Soviet of Workers' Deputies or exchanged views with comrades on the spot. Therefore I leave it to the discretion of the editorial board to publish or not to publish this letter, written by an uninformed person. I reserve the right to revise my opinion when I have at last had an opportunity of acquainting myself with the matter from something more than 'paper' information" (Lenin, PSS, 12:61).

(38) See Carter Elwood, "Lenin and Pravda, 1912-1914," Slavic Review 31, 2 (1972): 355-80.

(39) Lenin, PSS, 31:132-33.

(40) Ibid., 471 (29 April 1917).

(41) In the 1920s, the Bolshevik leadership may have wanted to keep quiet about the cuts in the Letter, not to protect themselves but to protect Lenin: in the context of the Lenin cult, the very fact that he did not fully appreciate every nuance of the situation in Petrograd might be seen as embarrassing. Stalin may have correctly calculated that Lenin's various misapprehensions were less visible after more than three decades.

(42) For a more detailed discussion of prewar Old Bolshevism, see Lars T. Lih, "Lenin and Bolshevism," in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism, ed. S. A. Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

(43) Lev Kamenev, Mezhdu dvumia revoliutsiiami (Moscow: Tsentrpoligraf, 2003), 423-25. This collection of prewar articles by Kamenev is perhaps the best guide to what the Bolsheviks meant by "hegemony."

(44) Note that Sukhanov himself assumed a fairly rapid transference of power; as Getzler writes, "Sukhanov did not think that a bourgeois government that was so out of tune with a revolutionized Russia would last longer than two or three months" (Getzler, Nikolai Sukhanov, 30-32).

(45) Since Lenin's "second stage" consisted of an alliance with the narod, no Bolshevik reader would equate it with a strictly socialist revolution.

(46) This misconception goes back to Trotskii's 1924 Lessons of October; for the words quoted here, see Zinov'ev et al., Ob "Urokakh Oktiabria, " 232. A volume of documents edited by Frederick Corney that is devoted to the debate over Trotskii's essay is forthcoming in the Historical Materialism book series.

(47) "The task confronting the proletariat of Russia is carrying out the bourgeois-democratic revolution to the end in order to kindle the socialist revolution in Europe. The second task now stands very close to the former, yet it remains a special and second task, for it is a question of the different classes who are collaborating with the proletariat of Russia. For the first task, the petty-bourgeois peasantry of Russia is the ally [sotrudnik]; for the second, the ally is the proletariat of other countries" (from "Several Theses," in Lenin, PSS, 27:48-51).

(48) Lenin, PSS, 49:421.

(49) This paragraph and the two following come from an editorial drafted by Kamenev. This editorial is often cited to support the claim that the Bolsheviks offered conditional support for the Provisional Government, but the passages cited here are never discussed. For full text and commentary, see Lars T. Lih, "Fully Armed: Kamenev and Pravda in March 1917," The NEP Era: Soviet Russia, 1921-1928 8 (2014): 55-68.

(50) The phrase "absolute lack of belief" is another indication of consensus. Kamenev took it from Lenin's telegram, which arrived in Petrograd the day before this editorial; see "Protokoly i rezoliutsii," 145; and Pervyi legal 'nyi PK Bol'shevikov v 1917g. (Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1927), 41.

(51) This passage is taken from a Pravda article of 14 March by Matvei Muranov.

(52) Lars T. Lih, "The Ironic Triumph of Old Bolshevism: The Debates of April 1917 in Context," Russian History 38, 2 (2011): 199-242.
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