Decree dissolving the Constituent Assembly (1918)

The following decree, written by Vladimir Lenin on January 6th 1918, was an explanation and an attempt to justify the Bolshevik closure of the Constituent Assembly a day earlier. According to Lenin, elections for the assembly were carried out before voters realised that Socialist-Revolutionary candidates were dominated by the party’s right-wing:

“At its very inception, the Russian revolution produced the Soviet of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants Deputies as the only mass organisation of all the working and exploited classes…

During the whole initial period of the Russian Revolution, the Soviets multiplied in number, grew and gained strength. They were taught by their own experience to discard the illusions of compromise with the bourgeoisie and to realise the deceptive nature of the forms of the bourgeois-democratic parliamentary system.

They arrived at the conclusion that the emancipation of the oppressed working classes was impossible unless they broke with these forms of government and every kind of compromise. The break came with the October Revolution, which transferred all power to the Soviets.

The Constituent Assembly, elected on the basis of electoral lists drawn up prior to the October Revolution, was an expression of the old political relationships and forces, which existed when power was held by the compromisers and the Kadets. When the people at that time voted for the candidates of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, they were not in a position to choose between the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, the supporters of the bourgeoisie, and the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, the supporters of socialism.

The Constituent Assembly, which was to have crowned the bourgeois parliamentary republic, would become an obstacle in the path of the October Revolution and Soviet power…

The working classes learned by experience that the old bourgeois parliamentary system has outlived its purpose and was absolutely incompatible with the aim of achieving socialism. Class institutions, such as the Soviets, not national institutions [were needed] to lay the foundations of a socialist society…

It was inevitable that the Bolshevik group and the Left Socialist-Revolutionary group, who now patently constitute the overwhelming majority in the Soviets and enjoy the confidence of the workers and the majority of the peasants, should withdraw from such a Constituent Assembly.

The Right Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties are carrying on outside the Constituent Assembly a most desperate struggle against Soviet power, calling openly in their press for its overthrow… They are defending the saboteurs, the servants of capital, and are going as far as undisguised calls to terrorism, which certain unidentified groups have already begun.

It is obvious that under such circumstances, the remaining part of the Constituent Assembly would only serve as a screen for counter-revolutionaries to overthrow Soviet power. Accordingly, the Central Executive Committee resolves that the Constituent Assembly is hereby dissolved.”