The April Theses

After the February Revolution in Petrograd, the political exiles came back. The April 13, 1917 (16 according to the Gregorian calendar, used in Russia since 1918) arrived Vladimir Lenin. He brought with him the "April Theses", which represented a vote of no confidence to the provisional government.

The day after his return (April 17), Lenin showed the thesis during the Pan-Russian Congress of Soviets, in front of nearly 800 members of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party. The speech was later published in an article entitled: "The tasks of the proletariat in this revolution."

Lenin was opposed to the predominant point of view. His speech was solely the result of his thoughts, without the interference of other opinions. Instead of accepting the "bourgeois phase", as they had done most of the members of the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks (the two factions of the Social Democratic Party), he urged those present to a "socialist revolution," giving power "to the proletariat and the poor peasants ".

The arguments presented were the following:

1) The ongoing war, even without the involvement of Russia remains a war of imperialist brigands. Capitalist is also the new government of Lvov and consequently the society. Without overthrowing capital it is impossible to end the war by a truly democratic peace, a peace not imposed by violence.

2) The specific feature of the present situation in Russia is that the country is passing from the first stage of the revolution — which, owing to the insufficient class-consciousness and organisation of the proletariat, placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie — to its second stage, which must place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants.

3) No support for the Provisional Government; the utter falsity of all its promises should be made clear, particularly of those relating to the renunciation of annexations.

4) Explain to the masses "the necessity of transferring the entire state power to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies."

5) No parliamentary republic! To return to a parliamentary republic from the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies would be a retrograde step - but a republic of Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies throughout the country, from top to bottom.

6) "Confiscation of all landed estates. Nationalisation of all lands in the country."

7) The creation of a single bank, controlled by national councils.

8) With regard to the immediate tasks of the Party, it was to convene a congress to approve the changes to its program and the name change, from social democratic to Communist.

9) All these measures did not mean the immediate "introduction of socialism”; but the control of production and distribution of products by the Soviets.

10) The creation of the International Revolutionary.

This program is considered by most of modern thought as "fantastic and imaginative." It contained a set of specific demands and utopian. Lenin on the one hand calling for the end of the war, land confiscation, nationalization of land and banks, control the production and distribution of products by the Council, the other demanded that "all power was given to the Soviets ", which meant the overthrow of the government. The program, radical and populist, took into account in particular the requirements of the largest portion of the population (farmers), which were: land and peace.

The "Theses" had their basis in the recent past. Their genesis began precisely with the failure of the revolution of 1905. The bourgeoisie had proven to be too weak to carry on the revolution in which the proletariat needed. The "Theses" were also born from reflection on the war. Lenin came to the conclusion that if Europe was on the brink of a socialist revolution, Russia would not be limited to democratic purposes.

The boldness of the speech of the leader of the Bolsheviks was considered outrageous by those who listened. The point of view of Lenin seemed too radical even for the components of his same group. The Bolsheviks rejected most of the "Thesis", and also the central committee of the Social Democratic Party voted against their adoption for 13 to 2. The Greorgi Plekhanov Russian leaders found the thesis "meaningless." It seemed that Lenin, after many years of exile, had lost touch with the political reality of his country. Present at the meeting, the Menshevik Georgy Lvov said: "Lenin is over."

In the days following Lenin persuaded the Bolsheviks of his individual point of view, using both his personality that matters. Gradually won a majority with the concrete proposal to come out of war. Therefore when he convened the VII All-Russian Congress from 7 to 12 May 1917, Lenin's ideas had gained widespread acceptance. They were in fact summarized using three words: "peace, bread and land." The weight of the war and the collapse of the economy made weak the position of the interim government. After the "Poker Strategy" announced April 17, 1917 the result was that a year and a half after the October Revolution the Bolsheviks took power.

Bibliography

Ludwik Bazylow, Paweł Wieczorkiewicz, Historia Rosji, Warszawa-Kraków, Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 2005.

Orlando Figes, Tragedia narodu. Rewolucja rosyjska 1891-1924, Wrocław, Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie, tłum. Beata Hrycak, 2009.

Andrzej Stanisław Kowalczyk, Sawinkow, Warszawa, Wydawnictwo LNB, 1992.

Martin Malia, Sowiecka tragedia. Historia komunistycznego Imperium Rosyjskiego 1917-1991, Warszawa, tłum. Magdalena Hułas i Elżbieta Wyzner, 1998.

Janusz Pajewski, Historia powszechna 1871-1918, Warszawa, PWN, 2002.

Janusz Piekałkiewicz, Kalendarium I wojny światowej, Warszawa, Wydawnictwo Morex, 2000.

Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, Mark D. Steinberg, Historia Rosji 1891-1924, Kraków, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, tłum. Anna Bernaczyk i Tomasz Tesznar,  2009.

Mieczysław Smoleń, Stracone dekady. Historia ZSRR 1917-1991, Warszawa-Kraków, Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 1994.