V. I.   Lenin

Review of Home Affairs


III. The Third Element

The term “third element” or “third persons” was employed, if we are not mistaken, by the Vice-Governor of Samara, Mr. Kondoidi, in his speech at the opening of the Samara Gubernia Zemstvo Assembly in 1900, to designate persons “belonging neither to the administration nor to the representatives of the social-estates”. The increase in the numbers and in the influence of such persons serving in the Zemstvo as doctors, technicians, statisticians, agronomists, teachers, etc., has long since attracted the attention of our reactionaries, who have also described these hated “third persons” as the “Zemstvo bureaucracy”.

Generally speaking, it must be said that our reactionaries (including, of course, the entire top bureaucracy) reveal a fine political instinct. They are so well-experienced in combating oppositions, popular “revolts”, religious sects, rebellions, and revolutionaries, that they are always on the qui vive and understand far better than naive simpletons and “honest fogies” that the autocracy can never reconcile itself to self-reliance, honesty, independent convictions, and pride in real knowledge of any kind whatsoever. So thoroughly imbued are they with the spirit of subservience and red tape   that prevails in the hierarchy of Russian officialdom that they have contempt for any one who is unlike Gogol’s Akaky Akakiyevich,[3] or, to use a more contemporary simile, the Man in a Case[4].

Indeed, if men in public office are to be judged, not by the positions they hold, but by their knowledge and their merits, will it not logically and inevitably lead to the creation of freedom of public opinion and public control to judge such knowledge and such merits? Will it not undermine the privileges of estate and rank upon which alone the Russian autocracy rests? Let us but listen to the arguments Kondoidi advances to justify his displeasure:

“Representatives of the social-estates, sometimes without adequately proven grounds, give ear to the words of intellectuals, even if the latter are nothing more than salaried civil servants, merely because they talk about science or quote something they have learned from newspaper or magazine writers”. Well, well! Mere “salaried civil servants” daring to teach “representatives of the social—estates”! In   passing, it should be said that the Zemstvo councillors, to whom the Vice-Governor referred, are members of a non-estate institution; but since every institution in our country is thoroughly saturated with the social-estate spirit, and since the Zemstvos, too, have lost the greater part of their non-estate character in consequence of the new regulations, it can be said, for the sake of brevity, that in Russia there are two governing “classes”: (1) the administration, and (2) the representatives of the social-estates. There is no room for a third element in a monarchy resting on the social-estates. And if unsubmissive economic development persistently undermines the foundations of the estates by the very growth of capitalism and gives rise to the need for “intellectuals”, who are becoming increasingly numerous, then it must be expected that the third element will strive to break out of its narrow confines.

“The dreams of those belonging, neither to the administration nor to the representatives of the social-estates in the Zemstvo,” said Mr. Kondoidi, “are pure fantasy, but if these dreams have as their basis political tendencies, they may be harmful.”

To admit the possibility of “political tendencies” is merely a diplomatic way of admitting their existence. The “dreams” referred to here are, if you will, all assumptions that for the doctor stem from the interests of the medical profession and for the statistician, from the interests of statistics, and that do not take into consideration the interests of the governing estates. In themselves, these dreams are fantasy, but, if you please, they foster political discontent.

We shall now relate the attempt of another administrator, the head of one of the central gubernias, to advance a different argument for displeasure with the third element. According to this official, the activities of the Zemstvo in the gubernia in his charge “are year by year departing from the principles upon which the Ordinance on Zemstvo Institutions[5] is based”. According to these regulations the local inhabitants are empowered to manage affairs dealing with local needs and requirements. Owing to the indifference which the majority of landowners display towards the right granted them, “the Zemstvo Assemblies have become a mere formality and affairs are conducted by the Zemstvo Boards,   the character of which leaves much to be desired”. This “has led to a big increase in the staffs of many Boards and to the practice of enlisting in the Zemstvo the services of experts— statisticians, agronomists, teachers, sanitary inspectors, etc., who, conscious of their educational, and sometimes intellectual, superiority over the members of the Zemstvo, have begun to display increasing independence, which, in particular, is achieved by convening all kinds of congresses in the gubernia and by setting up all kinds of councils in the Boards. As a result, the whole of the Zemstvo administration has fallen into the hands of persons who have nothing in common with the local population.” Although “there are among these persons many who are well-intentioned and are worthy of the utmost respect, they cannot regard their services as anything else than a means of livelihood, and they are interested in local needs and requirements only to the extent that their personal welfare depends upon these”.

In the opinion of the governor, “in Zemstvo affairs, the hired man cannot take the place of the property-owner”. This argument may be described as more cunning or more candid than the one mentioned above, depending on how one looks at it. It is more cunning because it makes no mention of political tendencies, but tries to base its reasoning exclusively on the interests of local needs and requirements. It is more candid because it openly contrasts the “hired man” to the property-owner. This is the time-honoured point of view of the Russian Kit Kitych,[6] who, in hiring a “mere teacher”, is guided principally by the market price of this particular form of professional service. The real master of everything is the property-owner, proclaims the representative of the camp from which praises are constantly heard of Russia and its strong and absolutely independent authority which is above all the classes and which, thank God, is free from the domination of selfish interests over public life that prevails in Western countries corrupted by parliamentarianism. And since the property-owner is the master, he must be master also of medical, statistical, and educational “affairs our Jack-in-office does not hesitate to draw this conclusion, which is the open recognition of the political leadership of the propertied classes. What is more curious, he does not hesitate to admit that these “experts” are conscious of their   educational, and sometimes intellectual, superiority over the members of the Zemstvo. Of course, what other measures can be taken against intellectual superiority than measures of severity?...

Recently, our reactionary press was presented with an excellent opportunity to repeat the demand for these measures of severity. The refusal of the intellectuals to be treated as ordinary hired men, as sellers of labour-power (rather than as citizens fulfilling definite public functions), has led from time to time to conflicts between the bigwigs of the Zemstvo Boards and the doctors who would resign in a body, or to conflicts with the technicians, etc. Recently the struggles between the Boards and the statisticians have assumed an outright epidemic character.

In the May issue of Iskra (No. 4), it was reported that the local authorities in Yaroslavl had long been dissatisfied with their statisticians and, after the events in St. Petersburg in March, made a thorough “cleansing” of the statistical bureau, with instructions to the manager “in the future to engage students with extreme caution and with an assurance of their reliability beyond the shadow of a doubt”. An article, entitled “Sedition in Vladimir-on-Klyazma” (Iskra for June, No. 5), described the general condition of the suspected statisticians, and the reasons for the dislike exhibited towards them by the Governor, the manufacturers, and the landlords. The dismissal of the Vladimir statisticians for having telegraphed a message of sympathy to Annensky (who had been assaulted on Kazan Square on March 4) led practically to the closing-down of the statistical bureau, and as statisticians from other towns refused to serve in a Zemstvo that was unable to protect the interests of its employees, the local gendarmerie was obliged to act as mediator between the dismissed statisticians and the governor. “A gendarme visited several of the statisticians at their homes and suggested to them that they submit a request for reinstatement”; but his mission was a complete failure. Finally, the August issue of Iskra (No. 7) reported an “incident in the Yekaterinoslav Zemstvo” in which “pasha” Rodzyanko (chairman of the Gubernia Zemstvo Board) had dismissed statisticians for failing to carry out the “order” to keep a diary, which action led to the resignation of all the other members of the bureau,   as well as to letters of protest from the Kharkov statisticians (published in the same issue of Iskra). Complications then began to set in. The Kharkov pasha, Mr. Gordeyenko (also chairman of the gubernia Zemstvo Board), intervened and declared to the statisticians of “his” Zemstvo that he “will not tolerate within the walls of the Board any meetings of employees called to discuss questions that do not concern their duties”. The Kharkov statisticians had barely carried out their intention of demanding the dismissal of the spy in their midst (Antonovich), when the administration dismissed the manager of the statistical bureau, which again led to the resignation of all the statisticians.

The excitement caused by these events among the mass of Zemstvo statistical department employees can be judged by the letter written by the Vyatka statisticians, who sought to give a detailed reason for refusing to join the movement, for which they were justly described in Iskra (No. 9) as the “Vyatka strike-breakers”.

Iskra, of course, reported only some of the conflicts, by far not all, that took place; the legal press reported such conflicts also in the gubernias of St. Petersburg, Olonets, Nizhni-Novgorod, Taurida, and Samara (we include in the category of conflicts cases in which a number of statisticians are dismissed simultaneously, since such cases roused considerable discontent and ferment). The lengths to which the suspicious and shameless provincial authorities went can be judged from the following:

S. M. Bleklov, manager of the Taurida Bureau, in his ’Report on the Investigation of Dnieper Uyezd During May and June 1901’, which he submitted to the Board, relates that, work in the uyezd was carried on under hitherto unprecedented conditions. Although the statisticians had the governor’s consent to the undertaking of their duties, were furnished with the necessary documents, and in accordance with the orders of the gubernia officials were entitled to the assistance of the local authorities, they were nonetheless surrounded with extreme suspicion on the part of the uyezd police, who dogged their steps and expressed their distrust of them in the rudest manner, so much so that, as one peasant related, a policeman rode behind the statisticians and questioned the peasants as to whether ’the statisticians were not   carrying on the propaganda of harmful ideas against the state and the fatherland’. According to Mr. Bleklov, the statisticians ’encountered various obstacles and difficulties which not only hindered their work, but deeply outraged their sense of personal dignity.... Frequently, the statisticians found themselves in the position of persons charged with a crime, concerning whom secret investigations were being made, which were known, by the by, to everybody—persons against whom it was considered necessary to warn all and sundry. The unbearable moral depression which they frequently suffered can therefore be well understood.’"

Not a bad illustration for the record of the Zemstvo-versus-statistician conflicts and for the description of the surveillance over the “third element” in general!

Small wonder that the reactionary press rushed in to attack the new “rebels”. Moskovskiye Vedomosti published a thunderous leading article, entitled “The Strike of the Zemstvo Statisticians” (September 24, No. 263), and a special article by N. A. Znamensky, entitled “The Third Element” (October 10, No. 279). “The third element is rearing its head too high,” writes the paper; it is resorting to “systematic opposition and strikes”, in order to resist the attempts to introduce “necessary discipline in the service”. The blame for all this rests upon the Zemstvo liberals, who have demoralised the employees.

“There is not the slightest doubt that measures have been taken to introduce a degree of order in statistics and in the work of assessing by the more sober and sensible of the Zemstvo leaders, who refused to permit the Boards in their charge to be demoralised by anyone, even under the flag of liberal opposition. The opposition and the strikes should at last open their eyes to the character of the people they have to deal with in the persons of the intellectual proletarians, roaming as they did from one gubernia to another, engaging, who knows, in statistical investigations, or in educating the local adolescents in the Social-Democratic spirit.

“At all events, the ’Zemstvo-versus-statistician conflicts’ will bring home a useful lesson to the more sensible section of the Zemstvo people. We think they will now see clearly that in the person of the ’third element’ they   have nurtured a viper in the bosom of the Zemstvo institutions.”[1]

We, too, have no doubt that the howling and whining of the faithful watchdog of the autocracy (the appellation, as is known, which Katkov, who for so long succeeded in keeping Moskovskiye Vedomosti charged with his spirit, assumed for himself) will “open the eyes” of many who do not yet fully understand how irreconcilable autocracy is to the interests of social development, to the interests of the intelligentsia generally, and to the interests of every genuine public cause which does not stand for embezzling state funds and for treachery.

This little picture of the anti-“third element” crusade and the “Zemstvo-versus-statistician conflicts” should teach us Social-Democrats an important lesson. It must strengthen our faith in the might of the labour movement we lead; for we see that unrest in the foremost revolutionary class is spreading to other classes and other strata of society, that it has already led, not only to the rousing of the revolutionary spirit among the students to a degree hitherto unparalleled,[2] but to the beginning of the awakening of the countryside, to greater self-confidence and readiness to struggle on the part of social groups that have until now (as groups) not been very responsive.

Public unrest is growing among the entire people in Russia, among all classes, and it is our duty as revolutionary Social-Democrats to exert every effort to take advantage of this development, in order to explain to the progressive working-class intellectuals what an ally they have in the peasants, in the students, and in the intellectuals generally, and to teach them how to take advantage of the flashes of social protest that break out, now in one place, now in another. We shall be able to assume our role of front-rank fighters   for freedom only when the working class, led by a militant revolutionary party, while never for a moment forgetting its special condition in modern society and its specific historic task of liberating humanity from economic enslavement, will raise the banner in the struggle for freedom for the whole people and will rally to this banner all those of the most varied social strata whom the Sipyagins, Kondoidis, and the rest of the gang are so wilfully forcing into the ranks of the discontented.

What is necessary now in order to achieve this is that we infuse into our movement, not only the consistent revolutionary theory elaborated in the course of a century-long development, of European thought, but also the revolutionary energy and revolutionary experience bequeathed to us by our West-European and Russian precursors, and that we do not fall into slavish adoption of the opportunism in its various forms from which our Western comrades —who have not been affected by it to such an extent—are turning away, but which is such a strong hindrance to us in our march to victory.

The Russian proletariat, at the present time, is confront ed by the most difficult, but extremely gratifying, task: to crush the enemy, whom the long-suffering Russian intelligentsia has been unable to overcome, and to assume its place in the ranks of the international army of socialism.


[1] Moskovskiye Vedomosti, No. 263. —Lenin

[2] As these lines are written, news comes of fresh and greater unrest among the students, ’of meetings in Kiev, St. Petersburg, and other cities, of the formation of revolutionary students’ groups in Odessa, etc. Perhaps history will impose upon the students the role of initiators in the decisive struggle. Be that as it may, if victory is to he achieved in this struggle, the masses of the proletariat must be roused and we must accelerate our efforts to make them class-conscious, to inspire and organise them. —Lenin

[3] The character referred to is Akaky Akakiyevich Bashmachkin, the hero of Gogol’s story “The Greatcoat”.

[4] The Man in a Case—the central character in Chekhov’s story of that name.

[5] The reference is to the “Ordinance on Guhernia and Uyezd Zemstvo Institutions”, approved by Alexander II on January 1,1864.

[6] Kit Kitych—the nickname given to Tit Titych (Kit is Russian for “whale” and Tit is the Russian form of Titus) in A.N.Ostrovsky’s comedy Shouldering Another’s Troubles.

  II. Attitude Towards the Crisis and the Famine | IV. Two Speeches By Marshals of the Nobility  

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