In this fascinating document, Louis C. Fraina proves his bona fides as founder of U.S. Communism. From Boston in the early summer of 1917 he comes to the defense of the position of Lenin and the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution and the debates in the International against the Socialist Party’s Right Wing and their New York Call. In the argument, he has to quote his own paper, New International founded with Kollontai, Trotsky and Bukharin at the beginning of the year, as the first place Lenin’s words were authentically reproduced in the United States. Whatever Fraina’s faults, he was an extraordinarily perceptive comrade.
‘The Attitude of Lenin’ by Louis C. Fraina from Class Struggle. Vol. 1 No. 2. July-August, 1917.
The American press has malignantly and persistently slandered the Russian Revolutionary democracy, but perhaps no other factor has been more slandered than our comrade N. Lenin and the group he represents, Lenin has been accused of being in favor of a separate peace with Germany; he has been stigmatized as an anarchist; even his private life has been foully maligned. And, strange to say, the New York Call has itself indulged in slanders against Lenin. A day or two after the recent elections in Petrograd the Call characterized Lenin and his group as “Anarchistic,” and generally indulged in the cheap sneers that are the Call’s editorial characteristic. This performance is all the more discreditable in that no authentic statement of Lenin’s position had up to that time been received in this country. It was a judgment based on prejudice, not on fact.
The first authentic statement of Lenin’s views that has appeared in the American press was printed in The New International of June 30, consisting of a lecture on “The Russian Revolution” that Lenin delivered in Switzerland shortly before his departure for Russia. One passage in this lecture completely annihilates the charge of “Anarchist”‘ hurled at Lenin: “As to the revolutionary organisation and its task, the conquest of the power of the State and militarism: From the praxis of the French Commune of 1871, Marx shows that ‘the working class cannot simply take over the governmental machinery as built by the bourgeoisie, and use this machinery for its own purposes.’
The proletariat must break down this machinery. And this has been either concealed or denied by the opportunists. But it is the most valuable lesson of the Paris Commune of 1871 and the Revolution in Russia of 1905.
“The difference between us and the anarchists is, that we admit the State is a necessity in the development of our Revolution. The difference with the opportunists and the Kautsky disciples is that we claim we do not need the Bourgeois State machinery as completed in the ‘democratic’ bourgeois republics, but the direct power of armed and organised workers. Such is the State we need. Such was the character of the Commune of 1871 and of the Council of Workmen and Soldiers of 1905 and 1917. On this basis we build.” Lenin’s programme was to initiate the second period of the Revolution, “from the revolt against the Czarism into the revolt against the Bourgeoisie, against the Imperialistic war.” His programme is the programme of the “Central Committee of the S.D.P.” in Russia: Democratic Republic; confiscation of the landed estates of the nobility in favor of the peasants; immediate preparations for peace negotiations: “Peace negotiations should not be carried on by and with Bourgeois governments, but with the proletariat in each of the warring countries.” He is absolutely opposed to the Social-Patriot Kerensky, and he differs from Tscheidse and his group on the policy of immediate tactics:
“Tscheidse and his friends are drifting to and fro, which is reflected in the opinions of the Times and the Temps: alternately they are praised and blamed by these papers. If refusing to join the second provisional Government, if the latter declared the war an Imperialistic war, Tscheidse was in harmony with the proletarian policy. But the fact that Tscheidse participated in the first provisional Government (the Duma Committee), his demand that a sufficient number of representatives of the Russian workers participate in this Government (which would mean that Internationalists would have to participate in the government of the Imperialistic war), and his further demand, together with Skobelef, that this Imperialistic Government initiate peace negotiations (instead of showing the workers that the bourgeoisie is tied hand and foot to the interests of financial capital and without any possibility of denouncing Imperialism), then Tscheidse and his friends follow the worst bourgeois policy detrimental to the interests of the Revolution.”
In his course of action, Lenin seems to be what one might call a revolutionary opportunist. He is not blind to the impracticability of establishing Socialism, but he wishes to use the present situation for revolutionary international action. In a letter to the Swiss comrades after his departure for Russia, reprinted in The New International of July 23, Lenin says:
“Historic conditions have made the Russians, perhaps for a short period, the leaders of the revolutionary world proletariat, but Socialism cannot now prevail in Russia. We can expect only an agrarian revolution, which will help to create more favorable conditions for further development of the proletarian forces and may result in measures for the control of production and distribution.
“The main result of the present Revolution will have to be the creation of more favorable conditions for further revolutionary development and to influence the more highly-developed European countries into action.”
The striking feature of this programme is that it is revolutionary without being hysterical or Utopian. It cleaves to the fundamental facts of the Russian situation and of revolutionary Socialism. The programme of peace of Lenin and his group is as follows:
“1. The Council of Workmen and Soldiers declares that as a revolutionary government, it does not recognize any treaty of Czarism or the bourgeoisie.
“2. It publishes immediately these treaties of exploitation.
“3. It proposes at once and publicly a truce to all participants in the war.
“4. Peace terms are: liberation of all colonies and of all oppressed peoples.
“5. A declaration of distrust in all bourgeois governments; appeal to the working class to overthrow those governments.
“6. The war debts of the bourgeoisie to be paid exclusively by the capitalists.
“By means of such a policy, the majority of the workers and small peasants can be won for the Social Democracy.
“The confiscation of feudal land property would be the result.
“Socialism would not yet be realized.
“But still, we would be willing to carry on a revolutionary war to enforce these peace terms. In such a revolutionary war we could expect the assistance of the revolutionary proletariat all over the world.”
The course of the Russian Revolution has followed remarkably the program of the Lenin group. This was its program in April; what it is today, we do not know; but we may be sure it is not what the bourgeois press or the Call says it is.
The Class Struggle is considered among the first pro-Bolshevik journals in the United States and began in the aftermath of Russia’s February Revolution. A bi-monthly published between May 1917 and November 1919 in New York City by the Socialist Publication Society, its original editors were Ludwig Lore, Louis B. Boudin, and Louis C. Fraina. The Class Struggle became the primary English-language theoretical periodical of the Socialist Party’s left wing and emerging Communist movement. Its last issue was published by the Communist Labor Party of America.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/class-struggle/v1n2jul-aug1917.pdf