On April 16th in 1917 Lenin arrived back in Russia after years in exile. In a speech at the Finland Station, having just disembarked from the ‘sealed train, he called for a socialist revolution in Russia as a prelude to a worldwide revolution. Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, Lenin had shocked his supporters with his crystal clarity about the goal but his endless flexibility about how to achieve it.
He was often derided by supporters and enemies alike for his willingness to compromise in the interests of the longer-term aim. He explained his reasoning in an article written when he was terminally ill in 1922 and published posthumously:
“Let us suppose the car you are travelling in is attacked by armed bandits. Let us suppose that when a pistol is put to your temple you surrender your car, money and revolver to the bandits, who propose to use this car etc to commit other robberies.
Here is undoubtedly a case of compromise with highwaymen, of agreement with them. The agreement, though unsigned and tacitly concluded, is nevertheless quite a definite and precise one: “I give you, Mr. Robber, my car, my weapon and money; you rid me of your pleasant company.”
The question arises: Do you call the man who concluded such an agreement with highwaymen an accomplice in banditry, an accomplice in a robber’s assault upon third persons despoiled by the bandits with the aid of the car, money and weapons received by them from the person who concluded this agreement?
No, you do not.
The matter is absolutely plain and simple, down to the smallest detail.
And it is clear that under other circumstances the tacit surrender to the highwaymen of the car, money and weapon would be considered by every person of common sense to be complicity in banditry’.
The conclusion is clear: It is just as silly to renounce the idea of literally all agreements or compromises with robbers as it is to acquit a person of complicity in banditry on the basis of the abstract proposition that, generally speaking, agreements’ with robbers are sometimes permissible and necessary.”
V.I.Lenin, Collected Works,vol. 30 pp.492-3