V. I. Lenin
The April Theses [1]


Written in May 1901 Published in Iskra, No. 4, May 1901 From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1961 Vol. 5, pp. 13-24.

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Immediately after Lenin's arrival in Petrograd on April 16, 1917, he presented his ideas on the development of the revolution (already outlined in his letters from Switzerland), to meetings of Social Democratic members of the national conference of Soviets. The document put forward by Lenin (subsequently known as "The April Theses") indicated the policy to be pursued by the Bolshevik Party; together with a more detailed statement also written by Lenin at this time, these theses were the main material for the April (1917) Conference of the Bolsheviks, and guided their tactics up to the November revolution.

The April theses are reprinted below, and also the section of the expanded statement which deals with changing the name of the Party from Social Democratic to Communist.

As I only arrived in Petrograd on the night of April 16, I could, of course, only on my own responsibility and admittedly without sufficient preparation render a report on April 17 on the problems of the revolutionary proletariat.

The only thing I could do to facilitate matters for myself and for honest opponents was to prepare written theses. I read them, and gave the text to Comrade Tserteli. I read them twice, very slowly : First at the meeting of the Bolsheviks, then at the joint meeting of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.

I am publishing these personal theses, provided with very short explanatory notes, which were developed in more detail in the report.

THESES

1. In our attitude towards the war not the smallest concession must be made to "revolutionary defencism," for under the new government of Lvov and Co., owing to the capitalist nature of this government, the war on Russia's part remains a predatory imperialist war.

The class-conscious proletariat may give its consent to a revolutionary war, actually justifying revolutionary defencism, only on condition (a) that all power be transferred tp the proletariat and its ally, the poorest section of the peasantry; (b) that all annexations be renounced in deeds, not merely in words; that there be a complete break, in practice, with all interests of capital.

In view of the undoubted honesty of the mass of rank and file representatives of revolutionary defencism who accept the war only as necessity and not as a means of conquest, in view of their being deceived by the bourgeoisie, it is necessary most thoroughly, persistently, patiently to explain to them their error, to explain the inseparable connection between capital and the imperialist war, to prove that without the overflow of capital, it is impossible to conclude the war with a really democratic, non-oppressive peace.

This view is to be widely propagated among the army units in the field.

Fraternisation.

2. The peculiarity of the present situation in Russia is that it represents a transition from the first stage of the revolution, which, because of the inadequate organisation and insufficient class-consciousness of the proletariat, led to the assumption of power by the bourgeoisie - to its second stage which is to place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest strata of the peasantry.

This transition is characterised, on the one hand, by a maximum of legality (Russia is now the freest of all the belligerent countries of the world); on the other, by the absence of oppression of the masses, and, finally, by the trustingly ignorant attitude of the masses toward the capitalist government, the worst enemy of peace and Socialism.

This peculiar situation demands of us an ability to adapt ourselves to specific conditions of party work amidst vast masses of the proletariat just awakened to political life.

3. No support to the Provisional Government; exposure of the utter falsity of all its premises, particularly those relating to the renunciation of annexations. Unmasking, instead of admitting, the illusion-breeding "demand" that this government, a government of capitalists, cease being imperialistic.

4. Recognition of the fact that in most of the Soviets of Workers' Deputies our party constitutes a minority, and a small one at that, in the face of the bloc of all the petty-bourgeois elements from the People's Socialists, the Socialists-Revolutionists down to the Organisation Committee (Chkheidze, Tserteli, etc., Steklov, etc., etc.) Who have yielded to the influence of the bourgeoisie and have been extending this influence to the proletariat as well.

It must be explained to the masses that the Soviet of Workers' Deputies is the only possible form of revolutionary government and, therefore, our task is, while this government is submitting to the influence of the bourgeoisie, to present a patient, systematic, and persistent analysis of its errors and tactics, an analysis especially adapted to the practical needs of the masses.

While we are in the minority, we carry on the work of criticism and of exposing errors, advocating all along the necessity of transferring the entire power of state to the Soviets of Workers' Deputies, so that the masses might learn from experience how to rid themselves of errors.

5. Not a parliamentary republic - a return to it from the Soviet of Workers' Deputies would be a step backward - but a republic of Soviets of Workers', Agricultural Labourers' and Peasants' Deputies, throughout the land, from top to bottom.

Abolition of the police, the army, the bureaucracy.

All officers to be elected and to be subject to recall at any time, their salaries not to exceed the average wage of a competent worker.

6. In the agrarian programme, the emphasis must be shifted to the Soviets of Agricultural Labourers' and Peasants' Deputies. A separate organisation of Soviets of Deputies of the poorest peasants. Creation of model agricultural establishments out of large estates (from 100 to 300 desiatinas, in accordance with local and other conditions and with the estimates of local institutions) under the control of the Soviet of Agricultural Labourers' Deputies, and at public expense.

7. Immediate merger of all the banks in the country into one general national bank, over which the Soviet of Workers' Deputies should have control.

8. Not the "introduction" of Socialism as an immediate task, but the immediate placing of the Soviet of Workers' Deputies in control of social production and distribution of goods.

9. Party tasks:

A. Immediate calling of a party convention.

B. Changing the party programme, mainly:

(1) Concerning imperialism and the imperialist war.
(2) Concerning our attitude toward the state and our demand for a "commune state."
(3) Amending our antiquated minimum programme.
C. Changing the name of the party.

10. Rebuilding the International.

Taking the initiative in the creation of a revolutionary International, an International against the social-chauvinists and against the "centre."

A NAME FOR OUR PARTY WHICH WOULD BE SCIENTIFICALLY SOUND AND CONDUCIVE TO PROLETARIAN CLASS THINKING

I am coming to the last point, the name of our party. We must call ourselves the Communist Party - just as Marx and Engels called themselves Communists.

We must insist that we are Marxists and that we have as a basis The Communist Manifesto, which has been perverted and betrayed by the Social-Democracy on two important points: (1) The workers have no country; "national defence" in an imperialist war is a betrayal of Socialism; (2) Marx's teaching about the state has been perverted by the Second International.

The term "Social-Democracy" is unscientific, as Marx showed repeatedly, particularly in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, in 1875, and as Engels restated in a more popular form, in 1894. Mankind can pass directly from capitalism only into Socialism, i.e., into social ownership of the means of production and the distribution of products according to the work of the individual. Our party looks farther ahead than that: Socialism is bound sooner or later to ripen into Communism, whose banner bears the motto: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

That is the first reason.

Here is my second: The second part of the term "Social-Democracy" is scientifically wrong. Democracy is only a form of state, while we Marxists are opposed to every form of state.

The leaders of the Second International (1889-1914), Messrs. Plekhanov, Kautsky and their ilk, perverted and debased Marxism.

The difference between Marxism and Anarchism is that Marxism admits the necessity of the state during the transition from capitalism to Socialism; but (and here is where we differ from Kautsky and Co.) Not the kind of state found in the usual, parliamentary, bourgeois, democratic republic, but rather something like the Paris Commune of 1871 and the Soviets of Workers' Deputies of 1905 and 1917.

There is a third reason: Life and the revolution have already established here in a concrete way (although in a form which is still weak and embryonic), this new type of "state", though it is not really a state in the proper sense of the word.

It is now a question of the action of the masses and not merely the theories of leaders.

Essentially the state is the power exercises over the masses by a group of armed men separated from the people.

Our new state, which is now in process of being born, is also a real state, for we, too, need detachments of armed men; we, too, need the strictest order, and the ruthless crushing of all attempts at a tsarist as well as a Guchkov-bourgeois counter-revolution.

But our forming, new state is not yet a state in the proper sense of the word, for detachments of armed men found in many parts of Russia are really the masses themselves, the people, and not simply privileged individuals, practically unremovable, placed above and separated from the people.

We ought to look forward, not backward; we ought to look away from the usual bourgeois type of democracy which has been strengthening the domination of the bourgeoisie by the means of the old, monarchistic organs of government - the police, the army, and the bureaucracy.

We must look forward to the advent of the newly born democracy, which is already ceasing to be a democracy, for democracy means the people's rule, while, obviously, an armed people could not rule over itself.

The word democracy is not only not scientific when applied to the Communist Party, but, since March 1917, it has simply become a blinker placed upon the eyes of the revolutionary people, preventing the latter from establishing boldly, freely, and on its own initiative a new form of power: the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers, etc., Deputies, as the sole power in the state and as the harbinger of the "withering away" of the state as such.

There is a fourth reason: We must take into account the objective international condition of Socialism.

Its condition is no longer what it was between the years 1871 and 1914, when Marx and Engels consciously allowed the inaccurate, opportunist term "Social-Democracy." For history proved that what was most needed in those days, i.e., right after the defeat of the Paris Commune, was slow work of organisation and enlightenment. Nothing else was possible. The Anarchists were then, as they are now, theoretically, economically, and politically wrong. The Anarchists made a wrong estimate of the time, for they did not understand the world situation: the worker of England corrupted by imperialist profits; the Paris Commune destroyed; the bourgeois-national movement in Germany flushed with recent victory; and the semi-feudal Russia still sleeping the sleep of centuries.

Marx and Engels gauged the hour accurately; they understood the international situation; they realised the need of a slow approach toward the beginning of the Social Revolution.

We, in turn, must understand the peculiarities and the tasks of the new epoch. Let us not imitate the woe-Marxians of whom Marx himself said: "I sowed dragons and I reaped fleas."

The objective needs of capitalism which has grown into imperialism have brought forth the imperialist war. This war has brought mankind to the brink of a precipice, to the destruction of civilisation, the ruin and brutalisation of countless millions of human beings.

There is no other way out, except a proletarian revolution.

And just when that revolution is beginning, when it is taking its first awkward, timid, weak, unconscious steps, when it is still trusting the bourgeoisie, at that moment the majority (it is a truth, it is a fact) of the Socialist-Democratic leaders, of the Social-Democratic parliamentarians, of the Social-Democratic papers, in a word, all those who could spur the masses to action, or at least the majority of them, are betraying Socialism, are selling Socialism, are going to fight the battles of their national bourgeoisie.

The masses are distracted, baffled, deceived by their leaders.

And should we aid and abet that deception by retaining the old and worn-out party name, which is as decayed as the Second International?

It may be that many workers understand the meaning of Social-Democracy honestly. It is high time that we learn to distinguish between the objective and the subjective.

Subsequently, these workers, who are Social-Democrats, are the most loyal leaders of the proletarian masses.

Objectively, however, the world situation is such that the old name of our party helps to fool the masses and retard their onward march. Every day, in every paper, in every parliamentary group, the masses see leaders, i.e., people whose voice carries far, whose acts are very much in evidence, who also call themselves Social-Democrats, who are "for unity" with the betrayers of Socialism, the social-chauvinists, and who are trying to collect on the notes issued bu Social-Democracy....

Are there any reasons against the new name? We are told that one may confuse us with the Anarchists-Communists.

Why are we not afraid of being confuse with the Social-Nationalists, the Social-Liberals, the Radical-Socialists, the foremost, the most adroit bourgeois party in the French Republic at deceiving the masses? We are told: "The masses have grown used to the name, the workers have learned to love their Social-Democratic Party."

That is the only reason, but this reason goes counter to the teachings of Marxism, disregards the revolutionary tasks of to-morrow, the objective position of Socialism the world over, the shameful breakdown of the Second International, and the injury done to the cause by the pack of "also Social-Democrats" surrounding the proletarians.

This reason is based solely on laziness, somnolence, and love of routine.

We want to rebuild the world. We want to end this imperialist World War in which hundreds of millions of people are involved and billions of dollars are invested, a war which cannot be ended in a truly democratic way without the greatest proletarian revolution in history.

And here we are, afraid of our own shadow. Here we are, keeping on our backs the same old soiled shirt....

It is high time to cast off the soiled shirt, it is high time to put on clean linen.





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