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The Enemies of the People

V. I. Lenin

Plekhanov's Yedinstvo (which even the Socialist-Revolutionary Dyelo Naroda justly calls a newspaper at one with the liberal bourgeoisie) has recently recalled the law of the French Republic of 1793 relating to enemies of the people.

A very timely recollection.

The Jacobins of 1793 belonged to the most revolutionary class of the eighteenth century, the town and country poor. It was against this class, which had in fact (and not just in words) done away with its monarch, its landowners and its moderate bourgeoisie by the most revolutionary measures, including the guillotine—against this truly revolutionary class of the eighteenth century—that the monarchs of Europe combined to wage war.

The Jacobins proclaimed enemies of the people those "promoting the schemes of the allied tyrants directed against the Republic".

The Jacobins' example is instructive. It has not become obsolete to this day, except that it must be applied to the revolutionary class of the twentieth century, to the workers and semi-proletarians. To this class, the enemies of the people in the twentieth century are not the monarchs, but the landowners and capitalists as a class.

If the "Jacobins" of the twentieth century, the workers and semi-proletarians, assumed power, they would proclaim enemies of the people the capitalists who are making thousands of millions in profits from the imperialist war, that is, a war for the division of capitalist spoils and profits.

The "Jacobins" of the twentieth century would not guillotine the capitalists—to follow a good example does not mean copying it. It would be enough to arrest fifty to a hundred financial magnates and bigwigs, the chief knights of embezzlement and of robbery by the banks. It would be enough to arrest them for a few weeks to expose their frauds and show all exploited people "who needs the war". Upon exposing the frauds of the banking barons, we could release them, placing the banks, the capitalist syndicates, and all the contractors "working" for the government under workers' control.

The Jacobins of 1793 have gone down in history for their great example of a truly revolutionary struggle against the class of the exploiters by the class of the working people and the oppressed who had taken all state power into their own hands.

The miserable Yedinstvo (with which the Menshevik defencists were ashamed to form a bloc) wants to borrow Jacobinism in letter and not in spirit, its exterior trappings and not the content of its policy. This amounts in effect to a betrayal of the revolution of the twentieth century, a betrayal disguised by spurious reference to the revolutionaries of the eighteenth century.

Published: First published in Pravda No. 75, June 20 (7), 1917.
Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 25, pages 57-58.

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