Friday, December 23, 2011

Leaders (Victor Serge)

Street demonstration, Nevskii Prospect, Petrograd, July 4, 1917, just after troops of the Provisional Government opened fire with machine guns.

         The Bolshevik party had been marching toward the seizure of power, with its astonishing steadfastness, lucidity and skill, ever since the fall of the autocracy.  To be convinced of this it is necessary simply to read Letters From Afar, written by Lenin before his departure from Zurich in March 1917.  But perhaps, like any historical definition that tries to be precise, that is too narrow a statement.  The party had been marching towards power ever since the day when its obscure Central Committee of émigrés (like Lenin and Zinoviev) declared, in 1914, that ‘imperialist war must be translated into civil war,’ or since the even earlier day when it was born as a party of civil war at the London Congress of 1903.

Petrograd Military Committee of the Bolsheviks, 1917. Standing: Galkin, Kedrov, Paniushkin. Seated: Orlov, Mekhenoshin, Nevskii, Podvoiskii, Dashkevich, Raskolnikov

     When Lenin arrived in Petrograd on 3 April, 1917, he proceeded to amend the political line of the party’s central newspaper ; this done, he set about defining the objectives of the working class.  Tirelessly he urged the Bolshevik militants to use persuasion to win the working masses.  In the first days of July when an infuriated popular upsurge broke for the first time against the Kerensky administration, the Bolsheviks refused to follow this movement.  These are leaders, in the real sense of the word, who are refusing to be led.

Vladimir Tatlin, Proposed Monument to the Third International in Petrograd, 1920 

Excerpt from Victor Serge, Year One Of The Russian Revolution, translated and edited by Peter Sedgwick, Chicago, Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1972

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