Workers Vanguard No. 887

2 March 2007


The 90th Anniversary of the February Revolution

(Quote of the Week)

Sparked by an International Women’s Day demonstration on March 8 (February 23 by the old Russian calendar), where women workers in St. Petersburg (Petrograd) demanded bread and opposed the interimperialist First World War, the February Revolution toppled the autocratic rule of Tsar Nicholas II. Alongside the new bourgeois Provisional Government arose workers and soldiers soviets (councils), posing a situation of dual power. Writing before his return from exile in Switzerland, Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin outlined a course toward the seizure of power by the working class, supported by the peasantry, which he would elaborate in Letters from Afar and the “April Theses.” Lenin’s struggle for this strategy, not least against leading Bolsheviks who urged critical support to the bourgeois regime, prepared the way for the proletarian socialist October Revolution.

The new government that has seized power in St. Petersburg, or, more correctly, wrested it from the proletariat, which has waged a victorious, heroic and fierce struggle, consists of liberal bourgeois and landlords whose lead is being followed by Kerensky, the spokesman of the democratic peasants and, possibly, of that part of the workers who have forgotten their internationalism and have been led on to the bourgeois path. The new government is composed of avowed advocates and supporters of the imperialist war with Germany, i.e., a war in alliance with the English and French imperialist governments, a war for the plunder and conquest of foreign lands—Armenia, Galicia, Constantinople, etc....

The new government cannot give the people peace, because it represents the capitalists and landlords and because it is tied to the English and French capitalists by treaties and financial commitments. Russian Social-Democracy must therefore, while remaining true to internationalism, first and foremost explain to the people who long for peace that it cannot be won under the present government....

The new government cannot give the people bread. And no freedom can satisfy the masses suffering from hunger due to shortages and inefficient distribution of available stocks, and, most important, to the seizure of these stocks by the landlords and capitalists. It requires revolutionary measures against the landlords and capitalists to give the people bread, and such measures can be carried out only by a workers’ government....

The truth about the present government and its real attitude on pressing issues must be made known to all working people in town and country, and also to the army. Soviets of Workers’ Deputies must be organised, the workers must be armed. Proletarian organisations must be extended to the army (which the new government has likewise promised political rights) and to the rural areas. In particular there must be a separate class organisation for farm labourers.

Only by making the truth known to the widest masses of the population, only by organising them, can we guarantee full victory in the next stage of the revolution and the winning of power by a workers’ government.

Fulfillment of this task, which in revolutionary times and under the impact of the severe lessons of the war can be brought home to the people in an immeasurably shorter time than under ordinary conditions, requires the revolutionary proletarian party to be ideologically and organisationally independent. It must remain true to internationalism and not succumb to the false bourgeois phraseology meant to dupe the people by talk of “defending the fatherland” in the present imperialist and predatory war.

—V.I. Lenin, “Draft Theses, March 4 (17), 1917”