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Icons Versus Cannons, Phrases Versus Capital

V. I. Lenin

The Note of the Provisional Government on war to a victorious finish has aroused indignation even among those who nourished illusory hopes for a possible renunciation of annexations on the part of the government of capitalists. The newspapers that have been acting as mouthpieces of this petty-bourgeois policy of illusory hopes are today either mumbling in dismay, like Rabochaya Gazeta, or are trying to turn this indignation against individuals.

Novaya Zhizn[1] writes: "There is no place in the government of democratic Russia for a champion of the interests of international capital! We are sure the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies will act promptly in taking the most energetic measures towards rendering Mr. Milyukov harmless." And Dyelo Naroda expresses the same piece of philistine wisdom in the following words. Milyukov's Note, it says, "tries to reduce to nought a statement of the greatest international importance approved by the entire cabinet".

Icons versus cannons. Phrases versus capital. The government's statement renouncing annexations was a piece of utterly worthless diplomatic verbiage, which might deceive an ignorant muzhik, but could not "confuse" the leaders of the petty-bourgeois Social-Democratic and Socialist-Revolutionary parties, the writers of Novaya Zhizn and Dyelo Naroda, unless they were willing to be deceived. What empty phrases are these about there being "no place in the government of democratic Russia for a champion of the interests of international capital!" Educated people ought to be ashamed of themselves, writing such nonsense.

The whole Provisional Government is a government of the capitalist class. It is a matter of class, not of persons. To attack Milyukov personally, to demand, directly or indirectly, his dismissal, is a silly comedy, for no change of personalities can change anything so long as the classes in power are unchanged.

To draw a line between the "democracy" of Russia, Britain, France, etc., and the championing of capital is to sink to the level, of the economic and political wisdom of a Gapon.[2]

It is pardonable for ignorant muzhiks to demand of the capitalist a "promise" that he "live righteously" and not capitalistically, that he should not "champion the interests of capital". But for the leaders of the Petrograd Soviet, for the writers of Novaya Zhizn and Dyelo Naroda to adopt such methods means to nourish the illusory hopes which the people place in the capitalists, hopes that are most harmful and ruinous to the cause of freedom, to the cause of the revolution.


[1] Novaya Zhizn (New Life)—a daily newspaper of a Menshevik trend, organ of a group of Social-Democrats known as Internationalists, whose members were Menshevik adherents of Martov and non-aligned intellectuals of a semi-Menshevik trend. The Novaya Zhizn group constantly vacillated between the conciliators and the Bolsheviks.

The paper was published in Petrograd from April 1917. After the October Revolution it took a hostile stand towards the Soviet government and was closed down in July 1918.

[2] Gapon, G. A. (1870-1906)—a Russian priest, leader of the Assembly of Russian Factory Workers of the City of St. Petersburg. On January 9, 1905, Gapon organised, with provocative aims, a peaceful procession of workers to the Winter Palace to present a petition to the tsar. The procession ended with the unarmed workers being shot down. After this Gapon emigrated abroad, where he joined the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, then returned to Russia illegally, and resumed contact with the secret political police. Was killed by the S.R.s.

Published: Pravda No. 37, May 4 (April 21), 1917.
Published according to the text in Pravda.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pages 196-197.
Translated: Isaacs Bernard

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