Proletary, No. 19, November 5, 1907.
Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 13, pages 147-152.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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In assessing the tasks of the Social-Democrats in the Second Russian Duma and the aspirations of the Russian liberals, Franz Mehring, the well-known German Marxist, wrote that German Liberalism has for the last sixty years been following a wretched and shameful path under cover of the slogan: “positive work”. When the National Assembly, on a single night in the summer of 1789, achieved the emancipation of the French peasants, that brilliantly venal ad venturer Mirabeau, the incomparable hero of constitutional democracy, described the event by the picturesque expression “a disgusting orgy”. In our (Social-Democratic) opinion, however, this was positive work. On the contrary, the emancipation of the Prussian peasants, which dragged on at a snail’s pace for sixty years, from 1807 to 1865, and took cruel and ruthless toll of countless peasant lives, was, from the point of view of our liberals, “positive work which they proclaim from the house-tops. In our opinion it was a “disgusting orgy”.
Thus Mehring wrote. We cannot but recall his words today, when the Third Duma is opening, when the Octobrists want to start a disgusting orgy in real earnest, when the Cadets are ready to take part in it with servile zeal, when even among the Social-Democrats there are (to our shame) Plekhanovites who are prepared to assist in this orgy. Let us take a closer look at all these preparations.
The eve of the Third Duma was marked by a spate of meetings of the different parties on the question of Duma tactics. The Octobrists at their Moscow conference drew up a draft programme for the parliamentary group of the Union of October Seventeenth, and their spokesman, Mr. Plevako, raised the “banner of the Russian Liberal-Constitutional Party” at a banquet in Moscow. The Cadets completed their Fifth so-called “Party” Congress in three or four days. The Left-wing Cadets were utterly defeated and thrown out of the Cadets’ Central Committee (which consists of 38 members, who completely control the “party”). The Right-wing Cadets obtained complete freedom of action—in the spirit of the “report on tactics in the Third Duma”, that remarkable, “historical” justification of the “disgusting orgy”. The Social-Democrats started to discuss Third Duma tactics in the Central Committee and at the conference of the St. Petersburg organisation of the R.S.D.L.P.
The parliamentary programme of the Octobrists is no table for its frank admission of the counter-revolutionary policy which the. Cadets virtually pursued in the Second Duma behind a screen of phrases and excuses. For instance, the Octobrists openly declare that revision of the fundamental laws and the electoral law is “untimely” on the grounds that it is first of all necessary to “lull and abolish the war of passions and class interests” by introducing “a number of pressing reforms”. The Cadets did not say this, but they acted in just this way in the Second Duma. Another example. The Octobrists stand “for drawing the widest possible circle of people into participation in self-government”, while at the same time “ensuring proper representation” of the nobility. This outspoken counter-revolutionism is more honest than the Cadets’ policy of promising universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot while in reality fiercely opposing election of the local land commit tees by such means both in the First and in the Second Dumas and proposing that these committees should consist of peasants and landlords in equal numbers, that is, the same idea of “ensuring representation of the nobility”. Yet another example. The Octobrists openly reject the compulsory alienation of the landlords’ land. The Cadets “accept” it, but accept it in such a way that they vote in the Second Duma with the Right against the Trudoviks and the Social-Democrats on the question of winding up the agrarian debate with a general formula accepting compulsory alienation.
On terms consolidating the “victories” of the counter revolution the Octobrists are prepared to promise all kinds of liberal reforms. These include “extension of the Duma’s budgetary rights” (this is not a joke!), “extension of its rights of supervision over the legality of the government’s actions”, measures guaranteeing the independence of the courts, “removal of constraints on workers’ economic organisations and on economic strikes” (“which do not prejudice state and public interests”), “strengthening the bases of lawful civil liberties”, and so on and so forth. The Octobrist governing party is as lavish of “liberal” phrases as the government of Mr. Stolypin itself.
How did the Cadets put the question of their attitude towards the Octobrists at their congress? The handful of Left Cadets was found to consist of blusterers who were unable even to pose the question intelligently, while the mass of the Right-wing knights of disguised Octobrism rallied strongly to smother the truth in the meanest fashion. The impotence of the Left Cadets is best illustrated by their draft resolution. Its first point recommends the Cadets “to adopt a stand of sharp opposition without aligning themselves with the Octobrists, who are hostile to it (to the Party of Constitutional-Democrats) both in spirit and in programme”. The second point calls on the Cadets “not to withhold support from Bills that lead the country along the path of liberation and democratic reforms, no matter from what source they originate”. This is a joke, because Bills capable of obtaining a majority in the Third Duma cannot originate from any other source than the Octobrists! The Left Cadet gentlemen fully deserve their defeat, for they behaved like wretched cowards or fools, who are incapable of saying clearly and bluntly that it is a disgrace to intend to legislate in such a Duma, that voting with the Octobrists means supporting the counter-revolution. Some individuals among the Left Cadets, apparently, understood the state of affairs, but being drawing-room democrats, they showed their cowardice at the congress. At any rate, Mr. Zhilkin in Tovarishch mentions a private speech by the Cadet Safonov, in which the latter said: “The Cadet group, in my opinion, should now take the stand of the Trudovik group in the First Duma. Opposition, strong speeches—and nothing more. Yet those people intend to legislate. I wonder how? By friendship, by an alliance with the Octobrists? What a strange tendency towards the Right. The whole country is Left, and we are going Right” (Tovarishch, No. 407). Apparently, Mr. Safonov has lucid intervals of shame and conscience ... but only privately!
On the other hand, Mr. Milyukov and his gang revealed themselves in all their old glory as shameless and unprincipled careerists. In the adopted resolution they gloss over the issue in order to fool the public at large, in the way that the liberal heroes of parliamentary prostitution have always fooled the people. In the congress resolutions (“theses”) there is not a word about the Octobrists! This is incredible, but it is a fact. The crux of the Cadets’ congress was the question of the Constitutional-Democrats voting with the Octobrists. All the debates centred around this question. But that is just what the art of the bourgeois politicians consists in—to fool the masses, to conceal their parliamentary hocus-pocus. The “theses on tactics” adopted by the Congress of the Constitutional-Democrats on October 26 are a classical document, showing, in the first place, how the Cadets coalesce with the Octobrists, and, secondly, how resolutions designed to hoodwink the masses are writ ten by the liberals. This document should be compared with the “parliamentary programme” of the “Union of October Seventeenth”. This document should be compared with the “report on tactics” which Milyukov delivered at the Congress of the Constitutional-Democrats (Rech, No. 255). The following are the most important passages of this report:
“Placed in opposition, the party, however [precisely—however!], will not play the role of an irresponsible minority, in the sense in which it itself used this term to describe the conduct of the extreme Left in the Duma” [translated from parliamentary into simple and frank language, this means: please, Octobrist-gentlemen, give us a place, we are only an opposition in name!]. “It will not regard the Duma as a means for preparing actions outside the Duma, but as a supreme organ of state, possessing a share of the supreme authority as precisely defined by law” [are not the Octobrists, who bluntly declare the revision of the fundamental laws to be untimely, more honest?]. “The party is going into the Third Duma, as into the first two, with the firm intention of taking an active part in its legislative work. The party always considered this kind of activity to be the chief and basic activity, in contrast to both the agitational aims of the Left and the conspiratorial activity of the Right.” As for “conspiracy”, gentle men, that is another lie, for in both Dumas you conspired with the ministers or the ministers’ lackeys. As for the disavowal of agitation, this is a complete and irrevocable disavowal of democracy.
To legislate in the Third Duma it is necessary either way, directly or indirectly, to unite with the Octobrists and take one’s stand unequivocally with the counter-revolution and with the defence of its victories. The Cadets try to pass this obvious thing over in silence. They let the cat out of the bag, however, in another passage of the report: “The use of the legislative initiative should be made dependent on a preliminary elucidation of the practicability of the party projects”. The practicability depends on the Octobrists. To elucidate it means having recourse to the Octobrists by the backstairs. To make one’s initiative depend on this elucidation means to curtail one’s own projects for the benefit of the Octobrists, it means making one s own policy dependent on that of the Octobrists.
There is no middle way, gentlemen. Either a party of real opposition, in which case—an irresponsible minority. Or a party of active counter-revolutionary legislation, in which case—servility to the Octobrists. The Cadets chose the latter, and as a reward for this the Black-Hundred Duma is said to be electing the Right-wing Cadet Maklakov to the presidium! Maklakov deserves it.
But how are we to account for the Social-Democrats who are capable, even today, of talking about support for the Cadets? Such Social-Democrats are the product of intellectualist philistinism, the philistinism of Russian life as a whole. Such Social-Democrats have been bred by Plekhanov’s vulgarisation of Marxism. At the conference of the St. Petersburg Social-Democratic organisation it became clear that the Mensheviks, following in the wake of the Right Duma, are going still farther to the right. They are prepared to support the Octobrists, i. e., the government party! Then why should not the Social-Democrats vote for Khomyakov, who is better than Bobrinsky? It is a question of expediency! Why not vote for Bobrinsky if the choice is only between him and Purishkevich? Why not support the Octobrists against the Black Hundreds, since Marx taught us to support the bourgeoisie against the feudal squirearchy?
Yes, one is ashamed to admit the fact, but it is a sin to conceal it, that Plekhanov has led his Mensheviks to heap infinite disgrace upon Social-Democracy. Like a true “man in the muffler”, he kept repeating the same old words about “support for the bourgeoisie”, and by his mechanical repetition obscured all understanding of the special tasks arid special conditions of the proletariat’s struggle in the revolution and the struggle against the counter-revolution. In Marx the whole analysis of revolutionary epochs turns on the struggle of genuine democrats and particularly of the proletariat against constitutional illusions, against the treachery of liberalism, against counter-revolution. Plekhanov recognises Marx—but it is a counterfeit of Marx in the manner of Struve. Let Plekhanov now reap what he has sown!
The counter-revolutionary nature of liberalism in the Russian revolution was proved by the whole course of events prior to October 17 and especially after October 17. The Third Duma will make even the blind see. The alignment of the Cadets with the Octobrists is a political fact, and no excuses and subterfuges can disguise it. Let the news paper of the dull-witted Bernsteinians, Tovarishch, confine itself to impotent whining in this connection, intermingling this whining with pushing the Cadets towards the Octobrists, with political pimping. The Social-Democrats have to understand the class reasons for the counter-revolutionary nature of Russian liberalism. The Social-Democrats must ruthlessly expose in the Duma all the approaches made to the Octobrists by the Cadets, all the baseness of so-called democratic liberalism. The workers’ party will dismiss with contempt all considerations about “guarding the flame” and will unfurl the banner of socialism and the banner of the revolution!
 See present edition, Vol. 12, p. 386.—Ed.
 See K. Marx and F. Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, Chapter IV.