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V. I. Lenin
FEAR OF THE COLLAPSE OF THE OLD
AND THE FIGHT FOR THE NEW
Written December 24-27, 1917
(January 6-9, 1918)
First published on January 22,
1926 in Pravda No. 18
to the manuscript
From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964
Vol. 26, pp. 400-403.
Translated from the Russian
by Yuri Sdobnikov and George Hanna
Edited by George Hanna
Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, email@example.com (January 1999)
FEAR OF THE COLLAPSE OF THE OLD
AND THE FIGHT FOR THE NEW
The capitalists and their supporters, witting and unwitting, are thinking, saying and writing: "The Bolsheviks have now been in power for two months, but instead of a socialist paradise we find the hell of chaos, civil war and even greater dislocation."
We reply: the Bolsheviks have been in power for only two months, but a tremendous step towards socialism has already been made. This is not evident only to those who do not wish to see or are unable to analyse the chain of historical events. They refuse to see that in a matter of weeks the undemocratic institutions in the army, the countryside and industry have been almost completely destroyed. There is no other way -- there can be no other way -- to socialism save through such destruction. They refuse to see that in a few weeks, the lying imperialist foreign policy, which dragged out the war and covered up plunder and seizure through secret treaties, has been replaced by a truly revolutionary-democratic policy working for a really democratic peace, a policy which has already produced such a great practical success as the armistice and has increased the propaganda power of our revolution a hundredfold. They refuse to see that workers' control and the nationalisation of the banks are being put into practice, and these are the first steps towards socialism.
Those tyrannised by capitalist routine, shocked by the thundering crash of the old world, and the blast, rumble, and "chaos" (apparent chaos) as the age-old structures of tsarism and the bourgeoisie break up and cave in cannot see the historical prospects; nor can those who are scared by the
class struggle at its highest pitch when it turns into civil war, the only war that is legitimate, just and sacred -- not in the clerical but in the human sense -- the sacred war of the oppressed to overthrow the oppressors and liberate the working people from all oppression. Actually all these tyrannised, shocked and scared bourgeois, petty bourgeois and "those in the service of the bourgeoisie" are frequently guided, without realising it, by that old, absurd, sentimental and vulgar intellectualist idea of "introducing socialism", which they have acquired from hearsay and scraps of socialist theory, repeating the distortions of this theory produced by ignoramuses and half-scholars, and attributing to us Marxists the idea, and even the plan, to "introduce" socialism.
To us Marxists these notions, to say nothing of the plans, are alien. We have always known, said and emphasised that socialism cannot be "introduced", that it takes shape in the course of the most intense, the most acute class struggle -- which reaches heights of frenzy and desperation -- and civil war; we have always said that a long period of "birth-pangs" lies between capitalism and socialism; that violence is always the midwife of the old society; that a special state (that is, a special system of organised coercion of a definite class) corresponds to the transitional period between the bourgeois and the socialist society, namely, the dictatorship of the proletariat. What dictatorship implies and means is a state of simmering war, a state of military measures of struggle against the enemies of the proletarian power. The Commune was a dictatorship of the proletariat, and Marx and Engels reproached it for what they considered to be one of the causes of its downfall,<"p401"> namely, that the Commune had not used its armed force with sufficient vigour to suppress the resistance of the exploiters.
These intellectualist howls about the suppression of capitalist resistance are actually nothing but an echo of the old "conciliation", to put it in a "genteel" manner. Putting it with proletarian bluntness, this means: continued kowtowing to the money-bags is what lies behind the howls against the present working-class coercion now being applied (unfortunately, with insufficient pressure or vigour) against the bourgeoisie, the saboteurs and counter-revolutionaries. The kind Peshekhonov, one of the conciliating ministers,
proclaimed in June 1917: "The resistance of the capitalists has been broken." This kind soul had no inkling of the fact that their resistance must really be broken, and it will be broken, and that the scientific name for this breaking-up operation is dictatorship of the proletariat; that an entire historical period is marked by the suppression of capitalist resistance, and, consequently, by systematic application of coercion to an entire class (the bourgeoisie) and its accomplices.
The grasping, malicious, frenzied filthy avidity of the money-bags, the cowed servility of their hangers-on is the true social source of the present wail raised by the spineless intellectuals -- from those of Rech to those of Novaya Zhizn -- against violence on the part of the proletariat and the revolutionary peasants. Such is the objective meaning of their howls, their pathetic speeches, their clownish cries of "freedom" (freedom for the capitalists to oppress the people), etc. They would be "prepared" to recognise socialism, if mankind could jump straight into it in one spectacular leap, without any of the friction, the struggles, the exploiters' gnashing of teeth, or their diverse attempts to preserve the old order, or smuggle it back through the window, without the revolutionary proletariat responding to each attempt in a violent manner. These spineless hangers-on of the bourgeoisie with intellectualist pretensions are quite "prepared" to wade into the water provided they do not get their feet wet.
The drooping intellectuals are terrified when the bourgeoisie and the civil servants, employees, doctors, engineers, etc., who have grown accustomed to serving the bourgeoisie, go to extremes in their resistance. They tremble and utter even shriller cries about the need for a return to "conciliation". Like all true friends of the oppressed class, we can only derive satisfaction from the exploiters' extreme measures of resistance, because we do not expect the proletariat to mature for power in an atmosphere of cajoling and persuasion, in a school of mealy sermons or didactic declamations, but in the school of life and struggle. To become the ruling class and defeat the bourgeoisie for good the proletariat must be schooled, because the skill this implies does not come ready-made. The proletariat must do its learning in the struggle, and stubborn, desperate struggle in
earnest is the only real teacher. The greater the extremes of the exploiters' resistance, the more vigorously, firmly, ruthlessly and successfully will they be suppressed by the exploited. The more varied the exploiters' attempts to uphold the old, the sooner will the proletariat learn to ferret out its enemies from their last nook and corner, to pull up the roots of their domination, and cut the very ground which could (and had to) breed wage-slavery, mass poverty and the profiteering and effrontery of the money-bags.
The strength of the proletariat and the peasantry allied to it grows with the resistance of the bourgeoisie and its retainers. As their enemies, the exploiters, step up their resistance, the exploited mature and gain in strength; they grow and learn and they cast out the "old Adam" of wage slavery. Victory will be on the side of the exploited, for on their side is life, numerical strength, the strength of the mass, the strength of the inexhaustible sources of all that is selfless, dedicated and honest, all that is surging forward and awakening to the building of the new, all the vast reserves of energy and talent latent in the so-called "common people", the workers and peasants. Victory will be theirs.
<"en148"> See Marx's letters to Liebknecht of April 8, 1871 and to Kugelmann of April 12, 1871 (Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, pp. 317-18). [p. 401]