V. I.   Lenin

The Persecutors of the Zemstvo and the Hannibals of Liberalism[24]

Written: Written June 1901
Published: First published in December 1901 in Zarya, No. 2-3. Signed: T. P..
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1961, Moscow, Volume 5, pages 31-80.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala and D. Walters
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2003). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README


It has been said of the Russian peasant that he is poorest of all in the consciousness of his poverty; of the ordinary Russian subject, it may be said that, while he is poor in civil rights, he is poorest of all in the consciousness of his lack of rights. Just as the peasant has grown accustomed to his wretched poverty, to living his life without pondering over the causes of his wretchedness, or the possibility of removing it, so the plain Russian subject has become accustomed to the omnipotence of the government, to living on without a thought as to whether the government can retain its arbitrary power any longer and whether, side by side with it, there are not forces undermining the outmoded political system. A particularly good “antidote” to this political apathy and somnolence is usually contained in the “secret documents”[1] which reveal that, not only desperate cutthroats and confirmed enemies of the government, but also members of the government itself, including ministers, and even the tsar, realise the tottering state of the autocracy and seek ways and means to improve their position, which they consider totally unsatisfactory. One such document is the Memorandum drawn up by Witte, who, having quarrelled with the Minister of the Interior, Goremykin, over the question of introducing Zemstvo institutions in the outlying regions, decided to display his perspicacity and his loyalty to the autocracy by drawing up an indictment against the Zemstvo.[2]

  The charge is levelled against the Zemstvo that it is incompatible with autocracy, that by its very nature it is constitutional, that its existence inevitably gives rise to friction and conflict between the representatives of the public and the government. The indictment is drawn up on the basis of vast (relatively) and fairly well prepared material, and since it is an indictment concerning a political affair (a rather peculiar one at that), we may be sure that it will be read with no less interest and will prove no less useful, than were the indictments in political trials once published in our newspapers.


Let us endeavour to determine whether the assertion that our Zemstvo is constitutional is borne out by the facts, and if so, to what extent, and in what precise sense.

In this matter, the epoch in which the Zemstvo was introduced is of particular importance. The fall of serfdom was a historical event of such magnitude that it inevitably made a rent in the police veil concealing class antagonisms. The most solidified and best educated class, and the one most accustomed to political power—the nobility— displayed a very definite desire to restrict the power of the autocracy by means of representative institutions. The reference to this fact in Witte’s Memorandum is extremely instructive. He says: “Declarations concerning the necessity of ’representation for the nobility’ and concerning ’the right of the Russian nation to elect its representatives to advise the supreme authority’ were made at assemblies of nobles as far back as 1859-60.” “Even the word ’constitution’ was uttered.”[3] “Several Gubernia[4] Committees   for the Peasant Question and individual members of commit tees called before the drafting commissions urged the necessity of drawing the public into participation in the administration. ’Deputies are openly striving for a constitution,’ wrote Nikitenko in his diary in 1859.”

“When, after the promulgation of the Regulations of February 19, 1861,[25] the hopes entertained in the autocracy were far from realised, and, moreover, when the ’redder’ elements in the administration (like N. Milyutin) were alienated from the implementation of the Regulations, the movement in favour of ’representation’ became more nearly unanimous. It found expression in resolutions moved in many assemblies of nobles in 1862, and in petitions drawn up by the assemblies in Novgorod, Tula, Smolensk, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Tver. The most remarkable of these was the Moscow petition, which pleaded for local self-government, public trials, obligatory redemption of peasant lands, publication of budgets, freedom of the press, and the convening in Moscow of a National Duma representing all classes for the purpose of drawing up a complete system of reforms. Sharpest were the decisions adopted and the petition drawn up by the nobility of Tver on February 2, urging the necessity of introducing a number of civil and economic reforms (e.g., equality of rights for all social-estates, obligatory redemption of peas ant lands) and ’the convocation of elected representatives of the whole Russian nation as the only means for satisfactorily settling the questions raised, but not settled, in the Regulations of February 19’.[5]

“Despite the administrative and judicial penalties inflicted on the initiators of the Tver petition[6] –continues Dragomanov—(not for   the petition directly, but for the sharp motivation attached to the collective resignation of the civil mediators[26]), declarations in the same spirit were made at various assemblies of nobles in 1862 and early in 1863, at which projects for local self-government were also drawn up.

“At this time, a constitutional movement was in progress also among the raznochintsi,[27] finding expression there in more or less revolutionary secret societies and proclamations: Velikoruss (between August and November 1861, officers like Obruchev and others took part in its publication), Zemskaya Duma (1862), Zemlya i Volya (1862-63).... Velikoruss published a draft petition which, as many said, was to have been submitted to the tsar during the Thousand Years of Russia celebrations in August 1862." The draft petition stated inter alia: ’May it please Your Majesty to convene in one of the capitals of our Russian fatherland, in Moscow or in St. Petersburg, the representatives of the Russian nation in order that they may draw up a constitution for Russia....”[7]

If we recall also the proclamation To Young Russia,[28] the numerous arrests and the Draconic punishments inflicted upon the “political” criminals (Obruchev, Mikhailov, and others), culminating in the frame-up of Chernyshevsky[29] and his being sentenced illegally to penal servitude, we shall have a complete picture of the social situation that gave rise to the Zemstvo reform. Witte states only half the truth in his Memorandum when he says that “the idea underlying the establishment of Zemstvo institutions was undoubtedly a political one”, that governing circles “undoubtedly took into consideration” the liberal and constitutionalist aspirations of the people. The hidebound official view on social phenomena, which the author of the Memorandum reveals throughout, is here demonstrated by his ignoring the revolutionary movement and by his concealing the Draconic measures of repression with which the government protected itself against the onset of the revolutionary “party”. True, from our modern viewpoint, it seems strange to speak of a revolutionary “party” and of its onset at the beginning of the sixties. Forty years of historical experience have made us more exacting with regard to what may be called revolutionary movements and revolutionary onsets. But it must not be forgotten that at that time, after thirty years of the rule   of Nicholas I, no one could have foreseen the course of events, no one could have estimated the government’s real strength of resistance or the real strength of the people’s indignation. Even the most cautious and sober politician could not but acknowledge the possibility of a revolutionary outbreak and the serious danger of a peasant revolt—in the obtaining conditions of the revival of the democratic movement in Europe; the ferment in Poland; the discontent in Finland; the demands for political reforms made by the entire press and by all the nobility; the widespread distribution of Kolokol through out Russia; the powerful appeals of Chernyshevsky, who was able, by means even of censored articles, to educate genuine revolutionaries; the appearance of proclamations; the ferment among the peasants, who were “very often”[8]   compelled by armed force and bloodshed to accept the Regulations that   stripped them of everything; the refusal of whole groups of civil mediators from among the nobility to apply such Regulations, and, finally, the student disorders. Under such circumstances, the autocratic government, which held it to be its lofty mission to protect, at all costs, the omnipotence and irresponsibility of the court camarilla and the army of official leeches, on the one hand, and to support the worst representatives of the exploiting classes, on the other—such a government had no other recourse than ruthlessly to exterminate individuals, the conscious and indomitable enemies of tyranny and exploitation (i.e., “the ringleaders” of “the revolutionary party”), terrify the masses of discontented people, and bribe them with small concessions. This meant penal servitude for those who preferred to remain silent rather than pour forth stupid or hypocritical phrases about the “great emancipation”; reforms (innocuous for the autocracy and the exploiting classes) for those who waxed enthusiastic over the liberalism of the government and the era of progress.

We do not wish to suggest that these calculated reactionary police tactics were clearly conceived and systematically pursued by all, or even by a few, of the members of the ruling clique. Some of them, on account of their narrow-mindedness, may not have pondered on the significance of these tactics as a whole and may have been childishly enthusiastic about “liberalism”, failing to observe its police mantling. In general, however, there is no doubt that the collective experience and collective reasoning of the rulers compelled them to pursue these tactics unswervingly. Not in vain did most of the grandees and notables undergo a prolonged training in bureaucratic and police methods in the service   of Nicholas I, and were, so to speak, case-hardened by fire and water. They remembered how sovereigns had at one time flirted with liberalism, and at another acted as the executioners of the Radishchevs[30] and “let loose” the Arakcheyevs[31] at their loyal subjects; they remembered December 14, 1825,[32] and they played the role of gendarme of Europe the Russian Government had played in 1848-49.[33] The historical experience of autocracy not only compelled the government to pursue tactics of intimidation and corruption, but also compelled many independent liberals to recommend these tactics to the government. In proof of this, we shall quote the opinions of Koshelev and Kavelin. In his pamphlet, Constitution, Autocracy, and the National Duma (Leipzig, 1862), A. Koshelev expresses opposition to a constitution, advocates the convening of a National Advisory Duma, and anticipates the following objection:

“To convene a National Duma means to lead Russia towards revolution, i.e., to repeat, in Russia, the États généraux,[34] which were subsequently transformed into the Convention and which came to an end with the events of 1792, the proscriptions, the guillotine, the noyades,[Mass executions by drowning.—Ed.] etc.” “No, gentlemen,” replied Koshelev, “it will not be the convocation of a National Duma that will prepare the ground for revolution, as you understand it. Revolution will come much more surely and rapidly as a result of the hesitant and contradictory actions of the government, one step forward—one step backward, edicts and laws impossible of execution, the restraints placed upon thought and speech; as a result of the police (open, and what is worse, secret) surveillance over the actions of the social-estates and of private persons, the petty persecution of certain individuals, the plunder of the Treasury, the squandering of public funds and the lavish granting of rewards, the incapacity of statesmen and their alienation from Russia, etc., etc. A country just awakening from centuries of oppression can be more surely driven to revolution (again as you understand it) by military executions, solitary confinement, and banishment; for rankling wounds are incomparably more sensitive and painful than fresh wounds. But have no fear, the revolution, which, as you suppose, was brought about in France by journalists and other writers, will not break out in Russia. Let us also hope that no society of desperate hotheads, who choose assassination as a means of attaining their ends, will be formed in Russia (although it is more difficult to vouch for that). What is more probable and dangerous is that, influenced by the split and unobserved by the rural, urban, and secret police, an alliance will be established between the peasants and the petty-bourgeois townspeople,   which will be joined by young and old, writers and adherents of Velikoruss, Young Russia, etc. Such an all-destructive alliance, advocating equality, not before, but despite, the law (What matchless liberalism! We, of course, are in favour of equality, but not of equality despite the law—the law which destroys equality!), not the popular, historical village commune, but its morbid progeny, and not the rule of reason which certain office-holders fear so much, hut the rule of brute force, which these office-holders so readily employ—such an alliance 1 say, is far more probable in Russia and may be far more powerful than the moderate, well-meaning, and independent opposition to the government which our bureaucrats abhor so much and which they try so hard to restrict arid suppress. Do not imagine that the party of the inner, secret, and anonymous press is small and weak; do not imagine that you have plucked it out root and branch. No! By prevent lug the youth from completing their education, by treating youthful pranks as if they were political crimes, by petty persecution and police surveillance you have increased the strength of that party tenfold, and have multiplied it and spread it throughout the Empire. What will our statesmen resort to in the face of an outbreak resulting from such an alliance? Armed force? But will that be absolutely reliable?” (pp. 49-51).

Do not the pompous phrases of this tirade obviously suggest the tactics: destroy the “hotheads” and the adherents of the “alliance between the peasants and the petty-bourgeois townspeople”; satisfy and disunite the “well-meaning and moderate opposition” through concessions? But the government proved to be cleverer and more agile than the Koshelevs imagined; it conceded much less than a National “Advisory” Duma.

And the following from a private letter written by K. D. Kavelin to Herzen,[35] dated August 6, 1862: "... The news from Russia is not so bad, in my opinion. It was not Nicholas Solovyevich that was arrested, but Alexander. The arrests do not surprise me and, I confess, do not seem to me outrageous. A revolutionary party considers every means to over throw the government justified, while the government defends itself by every means at its disposal. Arrests and banishment under the reign of the despicable Nicholas were quite another thing. People then died for their ideas, their convictions, their faith, and their utterances. I would like to see you in the government’s boots and see what you would do against a party that is secretly and openly working against you. I like Chernyshevsky very, very much, but never in my life have I seen such a brouillon [an irascible, unsociable   bully, a sower of discord],[9] such a tactless and cock sure fellow! To perish in vain, for absolutely no reason at all! There cannot be the least doubt now that the conflagrations have a connection with the leaflets.”[10] What an example of servile-professorial profundity! It is the revolutionaries who are to blame for everything; it is they who are conceited enough to hiss at phrase-mongering liberals, they who are so impudent as to work secretly and openly against the government and so tactless as to get themselves incarcerated in the Fortress of Peter and Paul. He, too, the liberal professor, would punish people like these “with all the means at his disposal”, were he in power.


Thus, the Zemstvo reform was one of the concessions forced from the autocratic government by public ferment and revolutionary pressure. We have dealt with the character of this pressure in detail in order to supplement and correct the picture outlined in the Memorandum by its bureaucratic author, who obscured the struggle that had given rise to this concession. Nevertheless, the half-hearted and pusillanimous character of this concession is quite clearly described in the Memorandum:

“At first, when the Zemstvo reform was just being undertaken, it was no doubt intended as a first step toward the introduction of representative institutions[11] ; but later, when Count Lanskoi and N. A. Milyutin were replaced by Count Valuyev, there was an obvious desire, as even the ex-Minister of the Interior admits, to act in a spirit of conciliation’, ’softly and evasively’. ’The government has no clear   idea of its aims,’ he said at the time. In short, an attempt was made— unfortunately made so often by statesmen and always with bad results for everyone—to act evasively between two opposite opinions, to satisfy liberal aspirations and preserve the existing system.”

The pharisaical word “unfortunately” is highly amusing. A minister of the police government describes as casual the tactics which the government could not but pursue and did pursue in adopting the factory inspection laws, as well as the law on the reduction of the working day (June 2, 1897), and which it is now (1901) pursuing in General Vannovsky’s flirtation with the “public”.[36]

“On the one hand, it was stated in the explanatory Memorandum attached to the regulations governing Zemstvo institutions that the purpose of the proposed law was to develop as completely and as consistently as possible the principle of local self-government, and that ’the Zemstvo administration is merely a special organ of one and the same state authority’.... Severnaya Pochta, then the organ of the Ministry of the Interior, hinted broadly that the institutions to be established were to serve as schools for representative bodies.

“On the other hand, ... the Zemstvo institutions are described in the explanatory Memorandum as private and as public institutions, subject to the general laws in the same way as individual societies and private persons are subject....

“Both the provisions in the Regulations of 1864 and, in particular, all the subsequent measures adopted by the Ministry of the Interior in relation to the Zemstvo institutions clearly indicate that the ’independence of the Zemstvo institutions was seen as a great danger, and that the government was afraid to permit the proper development of these institutions, being fully aware of what that would lead to. [Our italics throughout.] ... There is no doubt that those who had to carry out the Zemstvo reform did so merely as a concession to public opinion, in order, as the explanatory Memorandum stated, ’to limit the unrealisable expectations and radical aspirations which have been aroused among the various social-estates in connection with the establishment of the Zemstvo institutions’; at the same time, these people fully understood it [the reform?] and strove to prevent the proper development of the Zemstvo, to give it a private character, restrict its powers, etc. While pacifying the liberals with the promise that the first step would not be the last and declaring, or, to be more precise, echoing the adherents of the liberal trend, that it was necessary to grant the Zemstvo institutions real and independent powers, Count Valuyev, in the very act of drafting the Regulations of 1864, strove in every way to restrict the powers of those institutions and place them under strict administrative guardianship....

“Bereft of a single guiding idea, representing a compromise between two opposite trends, the Zemstvo institutions, in the form in which they were established by the Regulations of 1864, proved in practice   to be out of accord with the fundamental idea of local self-government on which they were based, as well as with the administrative system into which they were mechanically inserted and which, moreover, had neither been reformed nor adapted to the new conditions of life. The Regulations of 181$4 sought to reconcile the irreconcilable and in that way to satisfy both the advocates and opponents of Zemstvo self-government. The former were offered superficialities and hopes for the future, while in order to satisfy the latter the powers of the Zemstvo institutions were given an extremely elastic definition.”

What pointed words our ministers sometimes accidentally let drop when they desire to put a spoke in the wheel of one of their colleagues and to display their profundity, and how useful it would, be for every one of our self-complacent Russians and all admirers of the “great” reforms to hang on their walls in golden frames the wise police maxims: “Pacify the liberals with the promise that the first step will not be the last”, “offer” them “superficialities and hopes for the future”! It would be particularly useful at the present time to refer to these precepts when reading in articles or other items in newspapers about General Vannovsky’s “heartfelt solicitude”.

Thus, from the very beginning, the Zemstvo was doomed to serve as a fifth wheel to the Wagon of Russian state administration, a wheel tolerated by the bureaucracy only insofar as it would not disturb its absolute authority, while the role of the representatives of the population was restrict ed to the simple technical fulfilment of the functions outlined by this very bureaucracy. The Zemstvos had no executive organs of their own, they had to act through the police, they had no contact with one another, and they were immediately placed under the control of the administration. Having made such a harmless concession, the government, on .the very day after the establishment of the Zemstvos, began systematically to impose restrictions upon them; the almighty bureaucratic clique could not reconcile itself to the elected representation of the social-estates and began to persecute it in every possible way. A very interesting part of the Memorandum is the summary of facts on this persecution, notwithstanding its obvious incompleteness.

We have seen how pusillanimous and irrational was the attitude of the liberals towards the revolutionary movement at the beginning of the sixties. Instead of supporting the   "alliance of the petty-bourgeois townspeople and the peasants with the adherents of Velikoruss”, they feared this “alliance” and held it as a bogy with which to scare the government. Instead of rising to the defence of the leaders of the democratic movement, persecuted by the government, they pharisaically washed their hands of them and justified the action of the government. This treacherous policy of grandiloquence and shameful flabbiness met with poetic justice. Having dealt with those who proved themselves capable, not merely of jabbering about liberty, but of fighting for it, the government felt sufficiently strong to squeeze the liberals out of even the minor and inferior positions which they had occupied “with the permission of the authorities”. So long as the “alliance of the petty-bourgeois townspeople and the peasants” with the revolutionaries represented a serious menace, the Ministry of the Interior itself mumbled words about a “school of representative institutions”, but when the “tactless and cock-sure” hecklers and hotheads had been removed, the “scholars” were treated with an iron hand. Then a tragicomical epic began. The Zemstvo appealed for an extension of its rights, but was deprived of one right after another and given “fatherly” homilies in answer to its petitions. But let the historical dates, even those presented in the Memorandum, speak for themselves.

On October 12, 1866, the Ministry of the Interior issued a circular subordinating the Zemstvo employees completely to government institutions. On November 21 a law was passed restricting the right of the Zemstvo in taxing commercial and industrial establishments. The St. Petersburg Zemstvo Assembly, in 1867, sharply criticised this law, and (on the proposal of Count A. P. Shuvalov) adopted a decision to petition the government to arrange for the questions touched upon by this law to be discussed by “the combined forces and with the simultaneous efforts of the central administration and the Zemstvo”. The government’s answer to this petition was to close down the St. Petersburg Zemstvo institutions and to resort to reprisals: the chairman of the St. Petersburg Zemstvo Board, Kruse, was banished to Orenburg; Count Shuvalov—to Paris; and Senator Luboshchinsky was ordered to resign. Severnaya Pockta, organ of the Ministry of the Interior, published an article in which “these   stern measures of punishment were explained by the fact that the Zemstvo Assemblies, too, from the very opening of their sessions, had acted contrary to the law [to what law? and why were the law-breakers not brought to trial, when only shortly before a speedy, just, and merciful court procedure had been introduced?]; that instead of supporting the Zemstvo Assemblies of other gubernias, utilising for that purpose the rights which His Majesty has graciously granted them for exercising proper care over the local economic interests of the Zemstvo in their charge [i.e., instead of being humbly submissive and following the “intentions” of the officialdom], they strove continuously, by falsely explaining the case and misinterpreting the laws, to rouse sentiments of mistrust and lack of respect for the government”. After such an admonition, it is not surprising that “the other Zemstvos failed to support the St. Petersburg Zemstvo, although the law of November 21, 1866, had everywhere given rise to deep-going discontent, so that at meetings many people declared it to be tantamount to destroying the Zemstvos”.

On December 16, 1866, the Senate issued a “clarification” granting the governors of the gubernias the right to refuse endorsement to any person elected by a Zemstvo Assembly whom the respective governor deemed politically unreliable. On May 4, 1867, there followed another Senate interpretation to the effect that communication of Zemstvo proposals to other gubernias was contrary to law, since Zemstvo institutions must concern themselves only with local affairs. On June 13 the Council of State issued a ruling, with Imperial sanction, prohibiting publication of decisions, minutes, reports of discussions, etc., of the meetings of Zemstvo, urban, and social-estate assemblies without the consent of the gubernia authorities. Further, that law extended the powers of chairmen of Zemstvo Assemblies; it granted them the right to close meetings at their discretion and imposed upon them the obligation, under threat of punishment, to close any meeting at which questions not in consonance with the law were presented for discussion. The public greeted this measure with hostility, regarding it as a serious restriction of Zemstvo activity. “Every one knows,” Nikitenko entered in his diary, “that the Zemstvos.are tied hand and foot by the new ·regulations which give the chairmen of   Assemblies and the governors of gubernias almost unlimited powers over them." The circular of October 8, 1868 makes it obligatory to obtain the consent of the governor for the publication even of the reports of the Zemstvo Boards and restricts inter-communication between Zemstvos. In 1869 the office of inspector of elementary schools was established for the purpose of taking the effective management of elementary education out of the hands of the Zemstvos. A regulation issued by the Committee of Ministers on September 19, 1869, which received Imperial sanction, declares that “neither in their composition nor in their fundamental principles are Zemstvo institutions governmental authorities”. The law of July 4 and the circular of October 22, 1870 confirm and increase the subordination of Zemstvo employees to the governors of the gubernias. In 1871 instructions were issued to the inspectors of elementary schools empowering them to dismiss teachers who were· deemed politically unreliable and to suspend all decisions of the school councils and submit them to the school guardians for their sanction. On December 25, 1873, Alexander II, in a rescript addressed to the Minister of Education, expressed the fear that unless proper guardianship and control are exercised over them, the elementary schools may be converted “into an instrument for the moral corruption of the people, some attempts at which have already been disclosed,” and he ordered the marshals of the nobility, by their close co-operation, to preserve the moral influence of the schools. In 1874 a new regulation concerning the elementary schools was issued, which placed the management of the schools entirely in the hands of the head masters. The Zemstvo “protested”—if a petition pleading that the law be revised and that the representatives of the Zemstvo take part in this revision (the petition of the Kazan Zemstvo in 1874) can, without irony, be described as a protest. Of course, the petition was rejected. Etc., etc,


Such was the first course of lessons given to Russian citizens in the “school of representative institutions” opened by the Ministry of the Interior. Fortunately, in addition to the political scholars who, in connection with the constitutional   declarations of the sixties, wrote that “it is time to give up all nonsense and get down to business, and business is now in the Zemstvo institutions and nowhere else”,[12] there were in Russia also “hotheads”, who were not satisfied with such “tact” and went with revolutionary propaganda among the people. Although they adhered to a theory which in essence was not revolutionary, their propaganda roused a spirit of discontent and protest among broad strata of the educated youth. Despite their utopian theory, which rejected political struggle, the movement led to a desperate grapple between the government and a handful of heroes, to a struggle for political freedom. Thanks to this struggle, and to it alone, the situation again changed; the government was once more compelled to make concessions, and the liberals once again revealed their political immaturity, their inability to support the fighters and, bring real pressure to bear upon the government. The constitutional aspirations of the Zemstvo became very marked, but these proved to be but a feeble “impulse”, despite the fact that Zemstvo liberalism in itself had made decided political progress. Particularly noteworthy was its attempt to establish an illegal party and to set up its own political organ. In his Memorandum, Witte summarises some of these illegal writings (of Cannan, Dragomanov, Tikhomirov), in order to demonstrate the “slippery path” (p. 98) upon which the Zemstvo had entered. In the late seventies, several congresses of Zemstvo liberals were held. The liberals decided “to take measures to bring about at least a temporary cessation of the destructive activities of the extreme revolutionary party, for they were convinced that nothing could be achieved by peaceful means if the terrorists continued to irritate and alarm the government by threats and acts of violence” (p. 99). Thus, instead of making an effort to extend the struggle, to secure considerable public support for individual revolutionaries, to organise some sort of public pressure (in the form of demonstrations, of refusal by the Zemstvo to carry out compulsory expenditures, etc.), the liberals again appealed for “tact”—“not to irritate”   the government!—to employ the “peaceful means” that had so brilliantly proved their futility in the sixties![13] Of course, the revolutionaries refused to agree to any cessation or suspension of fighting actions. The Zemstvo supporters then formed the League of Oppositional Elements, which was later transformed into the Zemstvo Union and Self-Government Society, or Zemstvo Union. The programme of the Zemstvo Union contained the following demands: (1) freedom of speech and the press, (2) inviolability of the person, and (3) the convocation of a Constituent Assembly. An attempt to publish illegal pamphlets in Galicia failed (the Austrian police seized the manuscripts and the persons who intended to print them), and in August 1881 Volnoye Slovo,[37] edited in Geneva by Dragomanov (ox-professor of Kiev University), became the official organ of the Zemstvo Union. “In the final analysis,” wrote Dragomanov in 1888, “the attempt to publish Volnoye Slovo as a Zemstvo organ cannot be regarded as successful, if only for the reason that Zemstvo material did not begin to reach the editorial office regularly until late in 1882 and publication ceased in May 1883" (op. cit., p. 40). The failure of the liberal organ was a natural effect of the weakness of the liberal movement. On November 20, 1878, Alexander II delivered a speech at a meeting of representatives of the social-estates in Moscow, in which he expressed the hope that “he would obtain their co-operation in checking the erring younger generation which was pursuing the fatal path whither suspect persons were striving to lead it.” Later, an appeal for public co-operation appeared in Pravitelstvenny Vestnik[38] (No. 186, 1878). In reply, five Zemstvo Assemblies (Kharkov, Poltava, Chernigov, Samara, and Tver) issued declarations urging the need to convene a National Assembly. “We may believe also,” says Witte in his Memorandum, after summarising in detail the contents   of these petitions, of which only three appeared in the press in full, “that the Zemstvo declarations on the convocation of a National Assembly would have been far more numerous, had not the Ministry of the Interior taken timely steps to prevent such declarations; the marshals of the nobility, as chairmen of gubernia Zemstvo Assemblies, received circular letters instructing them to prevent even the reading of such petitions at meetings of the assemblies. In some places, arrests were made and councillors banished. In Chernigov the meeting hall was invaded and forcibly cleared by gendarmes” (p. 104).

The liberal magazines and newspapers supported the movement. A petition signed by “twenty-five prominent Moscow citizens” addressed to Loris-Melikov asked for the convocation of an independent assembly of representatives of the Zemstvos which should be given the right to participate in the government of the nation. In appointing Loris-Melikov Minister of the Interior, the government was apparently making a concession. But only apparently; for not only were no decisive steps taken, there were not even any declarations that might be called positive and incapable of misinterpretation. Loris-Melikov called together the editors of St. Petersburg periodicals and explained to them “the programme”: to learn the wishes, needs, etc., of the population, to enable the Zemstvos, etc., to enjoy their legal rights (the liberal programme guarantees the Zemstvos those “rights” of which the law systematically deprives them!), etc. The author of the Memorandum states:

“Through the medium of these interlocutors the Minister’s programme was circulated throughout Russia—for which purpose they had been called together. In point of fact, the programme did not promise anything definite. One could read into it anything one desired, i.e., everything or nothing. A leaflet secretly distributed at the time was right in its way [only in “its” way, not absolutely in “every” way!] when it stated that the programme simultaneously wagged a ’fox tail’ and gnashed ’wolf’s fangs’. This attack on the programme and its author is the more understandable, be cause, in communicating the. programme to the representatives of the press, the Count strongly urged them ’not to confuse and not to excite the public mind needlessly with their   visionary illusions’." But the liberal Zemstvo supporters refused to listen to the truth contained in the secret leaflet and accepted the wagging of the “fox tail” as a “new policy” worthy of confidence. “The Zemstvos believed and sympathised with the government,” says the Memorandum, quoting an illegally published pamphlet, The Opinions of the Zemstvo Assemblies on the Present State of Russia, “and they seemed afraid of running too far ahead and of pestering the government with excessive requests.” A characteristic admission on the part of the Zemstvo adherents, who enjoyed freedom of expression! The Zemstvo Union at its congress in 1880 had only just decided “to strive to secure central popular representation, of which an absolute condition would be a single chamber and universal suffrage”, when this decision to strive to secure was carried out by the tactic of refraining from “running too far ahead” and “believing and sympathising with” ambiguous declarations that bind no one to anything! With unpardonable naïveté, the Zemstvo adherents imagined that presenting petitions meant “striving to secure”—and petitions “poured in from the Zemstvos in abundance”. On January 28, 1881, Loris-Melikov submitted a most humble Memorial to the tsar proposing the establishment of a commission of Zemstvo representatives with advisory powers only, for the purpose of drafting the laws His Majesty would be pleased to indicate. The Special Council set up by Alexander II approved of this measure; the findings of the Council of February 17, 1881, were confirmed by the Tsar, who also approved the text of the government announcement submitted by Loris-Melikov.

“Undoubtedly,” writes Witte, “the establishment of such a purely advisory commission did not yet establish a constitution,” but, he continues, it can hardly be denied that it represented a step forward (following the reforms of the six ties) towards a constitution and towards nothing else. The author then repeats a statement contained in the foreign press to the effect that upon reading Loris-Melikov’s Memorial, Alexander II exclaimed: “Why, this is the États généraux.... What is proposed to us is neither more nor less than the Assembly of Notables of Louis XVI.”[39]

We would observe, on our part, that under certain circumstances the application of Loris-Melikov’s proposal   might have been a step towards a constitution, but it might also not have been; everything depended on which prevailed —the pressure of the revolutionary party and the liberal public, or the counter-pressure of the very powerful, compact party of persisting supporters of the autocracy that were unscrupulous in the methods they employed. If, however, we speak, not of what might have happened, but of what actually did happen, then we must admit the indubitable fact that the government was wavering. Some members of the government were in favour of strenuously resisting the liberals, while others were in favour of making concessions. But—and this is particularly important—even the latter wavered, having no very definite programme and never rising above the level of scheming bureaucrats.

In his Memorandum, Witte writes:

“Count Loris-Melikov appeared to be afraid to look the affair straight in the face and to define his programme with precision; he continued the evasive policy—in another direction, it is true—that had been adopted by Count Valuyev towards the Zemstvo institutions.

“As even the legal press rightly pointed out at the time, the programme announced by Loris-Melikov was distinguished by its extreme vagueness. This vagueness is observed in all the Count’s subsequent actions and pronouncements. On the one hand, he declared that the autocracy was ’separated from the people’, that ’he looks to public sup port as the principal force...’, and that he regarded the proposed reform ’not as something final, but merely as a first step’, etc. On the other band, the Count declared at the same time to the press representatives that ’the hopes aroused among the people are nothing but a visionary illusion...’, and in his most humble Memorial to the Tsar, he stated categorically that a National Assembly would be ’a dangerous experiment of reverting to the past...’, that the measure he proposed would not in any way restrict the powers of the autocracy, since it had nothing in common with Western constitutional forms. Generally speaking, as L. Tikhomirov has fitly remarked, the Memorial itself is distinguished by its wonderfully confused wording” (p. 117).

In his attitude towards the freedom fighters Loris-Melikov, that notorious hero of the “dictatorship of the heart”,[40] displayed “a cruelty unparalleled, before or since, in ordering the execution of a seventeen year-old youth for a printed leaflet found in his possession. Loris-Melikov did not forget the most remote parts of Siberia, and he did everything to worsen the conditions of the exiles suffering for their propaganda” (V. Zasulich in Sotsial   Demokrat,[41] No. 1, p. 84). In view of the government’s wavering, only a force capable of earnest struggle could have secured a constitution; but such a force was lacking— the revolutionaries had exhausted themselves by their effort of March 1[42]; there was neither a broad movement nor a strong organisation of the working class, and the liberal public on this occasion again proved to be so politically immature that even after the assassination of Alexander II it restricted itself to the mere presentation of petitions. The Zemstvos, the municipalities, and the liberal press (Poryadok, Strana, Golos[14] ), all presented petitions. Particularly loyal, artful, and nebulous were the petitions of the liberal authors of memoranda, such as the Marquis of Velepolski, Professor Chicherin, and Professor Gradovsky. Witte’s Memorandum reproduces their content from a pamphlet published in London,[15] The Constitution of Count Loris-Melikov (Free Russian Press Fund, London, 1893). Those authors invented “ingenious devices for bringing the monarch to cross the Rubicon without his being aware of it”. It stands to reason that all these cautious petitions and artful devices proved utterly useless without a revolutionary force, and the autocratic party triumphed—triumphed despite the fact that on March 8,1881, a majority of the Council of Ministers (seven against five) had voted in favour of Loris-Melikov’s proposal. (So the pamphlet has it; but Witte, who assiduously cites its authors, for some reason or other declares in his Memorandum: “It is not authentically known what happened at this meeting of March 8 and what it resulted in; it would be rash to rely upon the rumours that have reached the foreign press,” p. 124). On April 29, 1881, the Manifesto on the reaffirmation and preservation of autocracy, described by Katkov as “manna from heaven”, was promulgated.

  For the second time since the emancipation of the peasants the revolutionary tide was swept back, and following it and as a consequence of it, the liberal movement for a second time gave way to reaction, over which Russian progressive society, of course, raised bitter lamentations. We are past masters of the art of lamentation; we lament the tactlessness and self-assurance of revolutionaries in harassing the government; we lament the government’s indecisiveness when, finding that it is not confronted by a real force, it makes pseudo-concessions and takes back with one hand what it has given with the other; we lament “the age without ideas and ideals”, when the government, having settled scores with revolutionaries whom the people failed to support, hastens to make up for lost time and fortifies itself for a fresh onslaught.


The epoch of the “dictatorship of the heart”, as Loris-Melikov’s ministry has been described, proved to our liberals that even the “constitutionalism” of one of the ministers, even of the Prime Minister, with the government wavering and the Council of Ministers approving “the first step towards reform” by a majority, still guarantees precisely nothing, if there is no serious social force capable of compelling the government to surrender. It is interesting to note also that the government of Alexander III did not show its fangs immediately upon the promulgation of the Manifesto reaffirming the autocracy, but found it necessary for a time to fool the “public”. In employing the term “fool” the public, we do not suggest that the government adopted the Machiavellian scheme of some minister, notable, or other. It cannot be over-emphasised that the system of pseudo-concessions and of seemingly important steps “to meet” public opinion has become an integral part of the policy of every modern government, including the Russian, for the Russian Government has for many generations recognised the necessity of reckoning with public opinion in one way or another, and in the course of many generations has trained statesmen in the shrewd art of domestic diplomacy. Such a diplomat was Count Ignatyev, whose appointment to the Ministry of the Interior in place of Loris-Melikov was intended to cover the   government’s retreat towards out and out reaction. More than once Ignatyev proved himself a demagogue and deceiver of the worst type, so much so that Witte reveals in his Memorandum not a little “police complacency” when he describes the period of his office as an “unsuccessful attempt to create a country with local self-government and with an autocratic tsar at its head”. True, this is precisely the “formula” advanced at the time by I. S. Aksakov; it was utilised by the government for its manoeuvres and was assailed by Katkov, who proved conclusively that there is a necessary connection between local self-government and a constitution. But it would be short-sighted to attempt to explain the well-known tactics of the police government (tactics deriving from its very nature) by the prevalence of this or that political view at the given moment.

Ignatyev issued a circular, in which he promised that the government would “take urgent measures to introduce proper methods to secure, with the maximum of success, the active participation of local public figures in the execution of His Majesty’s designs”. The Zemstvos responded to this “call” by petitions pleading for the convocation of an assembly “of the elected representatives of the people” (from the memorandum of a member of the Cherepovets Zemstvo; the governor did not even permit the opinion of a member of the Kirillov Zemstvo to be published). The government instruct ed the governors to “take no further action” with regard to these petitions; “at the same time, measures were apparently taken to prevent other assemblies from submitting similar petitions”. The notorious attempt was made to call a conference of “qualified people” hand-picked by the ministers (for the purpose of discussing questions of reducing land redemption payments,[43] regulating migration, reforming local government, etc.). “The work of the committees of experts evoked no sympathy among the public and, not withstanding all the precautionary measures, even aroused a direct protest from the Zemstvos. Twelve Zemstvo Assemblies petitioned that Zemstvo representatives be invited to participate in legislative activity, not only on special occasions and by appointment from the government, but permanently and by election from the Zemstvos.” An attempt by the Samara Zemstvo to adopt a similar motion was prevented   by the chairman, “after which the Assembly broke up in protest” (Dragomanov, op. cit., p. 29; Memorandum, p. 131). That Count Ignatyev duped the Zemstvos is apparent from the following fact: “Mr. Ustimovich, Marshal of the Poltava Nobility and author of the draft Constitutional Petition of 1879, openly declared in the Gubernia Assembly of Nobles that he had received positive assurances [sic!] from Count Ignatyev that the government would call upon the representatives of the country to take part in legislative activity” (Dragomanov, ibid.).

These frauds of Ignatyev crowned the work of covering up the government’s transition to a decisively new policy, and not without good reason did D. A. Tolstoi, who on May 30, 1882, was appointed Minister of the Interior, earn the nickname “Minister of Struggle”. Petitions from the Zemstvos even for the convening of some sort of private conferences were unceremoniously rejected. There was even a case of a government commission replacing a Zemstvo Board and banishing its members, on a complaint lodged by a governor against “the systematic opposition” of the Zemstvo (of Cherepovets). D. A. Tolstoi, a faithful disciple and follower of Katkov, went further and decided to “reform” the Zemstvo institutions. The idea underlying the reform (which, as we have seen, was confirmed by history) was that “the opposition to the government has strongly entrenched itself in the Zemstvos” (p. 139 of the Memorandum, dealing with the original plan for Zemstvo reform). D. A. Tolstoi planned. to replace the Zemstvo Boards with bureaus subordinated to the governor and to make all decisions of the Zemstvo Assemblies subject to the governor’s sanction. This would have been a truly “radical” reform; but it is extremely interesting to note that even this disciple of Katkov, this “Minister of Struggle”, in the words of the Memorandum, “did not abandon the usual policy of the Ministry of the Interior towards the Zemstvo institutions. In the draft of his project, Tolstoi did not openly express his idea, actually to abolish the Zemstvos; on the pretext of correctly developing the principle of local self-government, he sought to preserve their external form, but, at the same time, deprive them of all internal substance”. This cunning policy of “the fox tail” was still further supplemented and developed in the   Council of State, with the result that the Zemstvo Regulations of 1890 “proved to be another half-measure in the history of Zemstvo institutions. They did not abolish the Zemstvos, but rendered them featureless and colourless; they did not destroy their character as being representative of all social-estates, but they gave them a social-estate tinge; ... they did not convert the Zemstvo institutions into regular organs of the state, ... but increased the power of the governors over them ... and increased the governor’s power of veto”. “The Regulations of July 12, 1890, were, in keeping with their author’s design, a step in the direction of abolishing the Zemstvo institutions, not a radical reform of Zemstvo local self-government.”

The Memorandum goes on to state that this new “half measure” did not remove the opposition to the government (it was, of course, impossible to remove the opposition to a reactionary government by intensifying that reaction), but merely drove certain of its manifestations below the surface. The opposition manifested itself, first, in the fact that certain anti-Zemstvo laws—if one may so term them— met with resistance and were not carried out de facto; it manifested itself, again, in constitutional (or, at all events, constitution-flavoured) petitions. Thus, the law of June 10, 1893, which tied up the Zemstvo medical service in a tangle of detailed regulations, met with the first-mentioned type of opposition. “The Zemstvo institutions put up a strenuous resistance to the Ministry of the Interior, which had to make a retreat. The Ministry was compelled to suspend the introduction of new regulations, already drafted, to reserve them for a complete collection of the laws, and to draft a fresh proposal on altogether different principles [i.e., principles more acceptable to the Zemstvos].” The Assessment of Real Estate Act of June 8,1893, which similarly introduced the principle of regulation and restricted the rights of the Zemstvos in the assessment of rates, likewise gave rise to dissatisfaction, and in many cases “is not being applied in practice”. The medical and statistical institutions established by the Zemstvos, which have brought considerable benefit to the population (as compared with the bureaucracy, of course), proved themselves of sufficient strength to paralyse the regulations drawn up in the chancelleries of St. Petersburg.

  The second form of opposition also found expression in the new Zemstvo, in 1894, when the Zemstvo petitions to Nicholas II renewed very definitely their demand for the extension of local self-government and gave rise to the “celebrated” words about senseless dreaming.

To the horror of the ministers, the “political tendencies” of the Zemstvos did not disappear. The author of the Memorandum cites the bitter complaints of the Governor of Tver (from his report of 1898) over the “closely knit group of people of liberal views” which had concentrated the affairs of the gubernia Zemstvo entirely in its own hands. “From the same governor’s report for 1895, it is apparent that the struggle against the Zemstvo opposition presents a difficult task for the local administration and that the marshals of the nobility, who officiate as chairmen at Zemstvo meetings, are sometimes called upon to display ’civic courage’ [sic!] in carrying out the instructions contained in the confidential circulars of the Ministry of the Interior on matters in which the Zemstvo institutions must not interfere." It is further related how, at one of the meetings of the assembly, the gubernia Marshal of the Nobility turned over his post as chairman to the uyezd [* See footnote to p. 36.—Tr.] Marshal (Tver), how the Tver Marshal in his turn passed it on to the Novy Torzhok Marshal, and how the Novy Torzhok Marshal also fell ill and handed over the post to the Staritsa Marshal. And so, even the marshals of the nobility flinch from carrying out police functions! “The law of 1890 [laments the author of the Memorandum] gave the Zemstvo a social-estate tinge, strengthened the government element in the assemblies, and appointed all the uyezd marshals of the nobility and rural superintendents[44] to the gubernia Zemstvo Assemblies, and the fact that these featureless, social-estate, bureaucratic Zemstvos continue nevertheless to betray political tendencies, is a matter that should be pondered.... Resistance has not been overcome; deep discontent and silent opposition undoubtedly exist, and will continue to exist until the Zemstvo representing all estates dies." Such is the last word in bureaucratic wisdom. If curtailed representation gives rise to discontent, then the abolition of every kind of representation   will, by simple human logic, strengthen this discontent and opposition. Mr. Witte imagines, however, that if one of the institutions that bring at least a particle of discontent to the surface is closed down, the discontent will disappear. Perhaps you think that Witte proposes something as resolute as the abolition of the Zemstvo? Nothing of the kind. Although, for the sake of fine words, he condemns the policy of evasion, Witte himself has nothing else but this policy to propose; nor can he have, without shedding the skin of minister of the autocratic government. Witte mumbles arrant nonsense about a “third way"—neither bureaucratic domination nor local self-government, but an administrative reform which should “properly organise” the “participation of public elements in government institutions”. It is easy to emit nonsense of this kind, hut after all the experiments with “qualified people” no one will be deceived by it; it is only too obvious that without a constitution any “participation of public elements” will be a fiction, will mean the subordination of the public (or those “called” from the public) to the bureaucracy. While criticising a particular measure of the Ministry of the Interior (the establishment of Zemstvos in the outlying regions), Witte cannot suggest any thing new on the general question he himself raises, but merely warms up the old methods—half-measures, pseudo-concessions, and promises of numerous benefits, none of which are fulfilled. It cannot he too strongly emphasised that on the general question of “the direction of domestic policy”, Witte and Goremykin are at one, and that the controversy between them is merely a family quarrel, a feud within the clan. On the one hand, Witte hastens to declare, “I have never proposed nor do I now propose the abolition of Zemstvo institutions or any radical change in the present system ... under present conditions there can hardly be any talk of abolishing them [the existing Zemstvos I”. Witte, “on his part, thinks that with the establishment of strong governmental authority in the localities, it will be possible to place greater confidence in the Zemstvos”, etc. After establishing a strong local bureaucracy to counterbalance local self-government (i.e., rendering local self-government impotent), one can place greater “confidence” in it. The same old song! Mr. Witte fears only “institutions representing all   the social-estates”; he “did not have in mind the various corporations, societies, unions of the social-estates or trade unions and did not consider their activities to be dangerous to the autocracy”. For example, in regard to the “village communes”, Mr. Witte does not doubt in the least that in view of their “inertness” they are harmless to the autocracy. “The predominance of landownership relations and the interests connected with them develop spiritual peculiarities in the rural population which render it indifferent to anything outside the politics of the village pump.... Our peasants at village meetings concern themselves with the apportioning of taxes, ... the distribution of allotments, etc. Moreover, they are illiterate or semi-literate—what sort of politics then can they concern themselves with?" Mr. Witte is extremely sober-minded, as you see. In regard to the unions of social-estates he declares that from the point of view of the danger they represent to the central government “their diversity of interests is of great importance. The government, by taking advantage of this diversity of interests, can always find support in one social-estate and play it off against the political claims of the others”. Witte’s programme of “properly organised participation of public elements in govern ment institutions” is nothing but another of the innumerable attempts of the police state to “split” the population.

On the other hand, Mr. Goremykin, with whom Mr. Witte enters into such heated controversy, himself carries out this very systematic policy of disunity and persecution. He argues (in his Memorandum, to which Witte rejoins) that it is necessary to institute mew offices to supervise the Zemstvo; he is opposed to permitting even simple local congresses of Zemstvo civil servants; he stands whole-heartedly for the Regulations of 1890—that step towards the abolition of the Zemstvos; he fears the effort of the Zemstvos to include “tendentious questions” in their programme of assessment work; he fears Zemstvo statistics generally; he is in favour of taking the elementary schools out of the hands of the Zemstvos and placing them under the control of government institutions; he argues that the Zemstvos are incapable of handling the questions connected with the food supply (Zemstvo workers, don’t you see, encourage “exaggerated notions of the extent of the disaster and the needs of the   famine-stricken population”!!); and he defends the fixing of limits to Zemstvo taxation, “in order to protect landed property from excessive increases in Zemstvo taxes”. Witte is entirely right, therefore, when he says: “The entire policy of the Ministry of the Interior towards the Zemstvos consists in slowly but steadily undermining their organs, weakening their significance, and concentrating their functions in the hands of government institutions. It may be said without the slightest exaggeration that when the ’recently adopted measures’ referred to in the Memorandum [Goremykin’s] ’regulating the various branches of Zemstvo work and administration’ are brought to a successful conclusion, we shall have no local self-government whatever. All that will be left of the Zemstvo institutions will be a mere idea and a shell without any real content.” Consequently, the policy of Goremykin (and more so the policy of Sipyagin) and of Witte lead to the same goal, and the controversy over the question of the Zemstvo and constitutionalism is, we repeat, nothing more than a family quarrel. Lovers’ tiffs are easily made up again. The “fight” between Mr. Wit{e and Mr. Goremykin is nothing more serious than that. As for our own views on the general question of the autocracy and the Zemstvos, it will be more convenient to present them in the process of analysing the preface written by R. N. S.[16]


Mr. R. N. S.’s preface represents much that is of interest. It touches upon the broadest questions of political reforms in Russia, the various methods by which these reforms can be effected, and the significance of the various forces leading to these reforms. On the other hand, Mr. R. N. S., who apparently has close relations with liberal circles generally, and Zemstvo liberal circles in particular, undoubtedly sounds a new note in the chorus of our “underground” literature. Therefore, in order to clear up the question of the political significance of the Zemstvos in principle and to acquaint ourselves with the tendencies and, I shall not say directions,   but moods, in the circles close to the liberals, it will be well worth our while to deal in detail with this preface and determine whether that which is new in it is positive or negative, and to what extent it is positive and to what extent negative and why.

The fundamental feature of R. N. S. ’s views is the following. As can be seen from numerous passages of his essay, quoted below, he favours peaceful, gradual, and strictly legal development. On the other hand, he rebels with all his being against the autocracy and yearns for political freedom. But the autocracy is an autocracy precisely because it prohibits and persecutes all “development” towards freedom. This contradiction permeates the whole of R. N. S. ’s essay and renders his argumentation extremely illogical, hesitant, and unsound. Constitutionalism can be combined with solicitude for the strictly legal development of autocratic Russia only on the premise or, at least, on the assumption that the autocratic government itself will understand, grow weary, yield, etc. And Mr. R. N. S. does, indeed, at times fall from the height of his civic indignation to the vulgar viewpoint of the most immature liberalism. Thus, he says of himself: "... we who regard the struggle for civil liberties waged by politically conscious people in Russia today to be their vow of Hannibal, a vow as sacred as that taken by the men and women who fought for the emancipation of the peasants in the forties " ... and, again, “however trying it is to those of us who have taken the ’vow of Hannibal’ to fight against the autocracy”, etc. Well said, powerfully said! Powerful words like these would have been an embellishment to the article, if the same spirit of indomitable and irreconcilable struggle ("the vow of Hannibal”) had pervaded it throughout. But these powerful words, precisely because they are so powerful, sound discordant when accompanied by a note of artificial conciliation and pacification, by an attempt to introduce, even with the aid of far-fetched interpretations, the conception of peaceful, strictly legal development. Mr. R. N. S., unfortunately, evinces more than enough such notes and such attempts. He devotes a page and a half, for instance, to a detailed “argumentation” of the idea that “the policy of the state during the reign of Nicholas II deserves even severer [our italics] condemnation from   the moral and political points of view than the wicked revision of the reforms of Alexander II carried out during the reign of Alexander III”. Why severer condemnation? It appears that this is because Alexander III fought against revolution, while Nicholas II fought against “the legal aspirations of Russian society”; the former fought against politically conscious forces, the latter against “quite peaceful social forces often acting without any clear political idea” (“hardly even realising that their purposive cultural work was undermining the state system”). To a considerable degree this is untrue in point of fact, as we shall show further on. But apart from this, one cannot help noting the author’s peculiar line of reasoning. He condemns autocracy, but condemns one autocrat more than another, not because of policy, for that has remained unchanged, but because he (allegedly) has no “hotheads” to contend with, such as “naturally” call forth sharp resistance, and, consequently, he has no occasion for persecutions. Is not such an argument an obvious concession to the loyal and humble contention that Our Father the Tsar need not fear to call together his beloved people because they have never dreamed of anything beyond the bounds of peaceful strivings and strict legality? We are not surprised to find such a “train of thought” (or train of lies) in the works of Mr. Witte, who writes in his Memorandum: “One would suppose, when there are no political parties and there is no revolution, and when the rights of the supreme authority are not being challenged, that the administration should not be contraposed to the people or society...",[17] etc. We are not surprised to meet with such arguments in the writings of Mr. Chicherin, who, in the Memorandum presented to Count Milyutin after March 1,1881, declared that “the authorities must first of all display their energy and show that they have not lowered their flag in the face of danger”, that “the monarchical system is compatible with free institutions only when the latter are the fruit of peaceful development and the calm initiative of the supreme authority itself”, and who recommended the   establishment of a “strong and liberal” government functioning with the aid of a “legislative organ strengthened and renovated by the elective element”.[18] Now, it would be quite natural for such a Mr. Chicherin to acknowledge that the policy of Nicholas II deserves greater condemnation, because under his rule peaceful development and the calm initiative of the supreme authority itself could have led to free institutions. But is it natural and decent to hear such reasoning from a man who took the vow of Hannibal to struggle?

Mr. R. N. S. is wrong in point of fact. “Now,” he says, comparing the present reign with the preceding one, “no one thinks seriously of the violent overthrow wishfully imagined by the adherents of Narodnaya Volya.” Parlez pour vous, monsieur! Speak only for yourself. We know quite definitely that the revolutionary movement in Russia, far from having died out or subsided in the present as compared with the previous reign, has, on the contrary, revived and become many times stronger. What kind of “revolutionary” movement would it be, if none of the participants thought seriously of a violent change? The objection may be raised that in the quoted lines Mr. R. N. S. has in mind, not violent revolution in general, but a specific “Narodnaya Volya” revolution, i.e., a revolution that will be both political and social at the same time, a revolution that will lead, not only to the overthrow of the autocracy, but to the seizure of power. Such an objection, however, would be groundless, first, because to the autocracy as such (i.e., to the autocratic government and not to the “bourgeoisie” or “society”) it is not important for what reason people want to overthrow it; important is the fact that they want to overthrow it. Secondly, at the beginning of the reign of Alexander III, the Narodnaya Volya adherents “presented” to the government the very alternative that Social-Democracy now presents to Nicholas II—either revolutionary struggle or the renunciation of autocratic power. (See the Letter of the Executive Committee of Narodnaya Volya to Alexander III, dated March 10, 1881, which put forward two conditions: (1) a general amnesty for all political offenders, and (2) the   convening of an assembly of representatives of the entire Russian people on the basis of universal suffrage, freedom of the press, speech, and assembly.) Mr. R. N. S. himself knows perfectly well that many people, not only among the intelligentsia, but also among the working class, “think seriously” about a violent revolution; see page xxxix et seq. of his essay, where reference is made to “revolutionary Social-Democracy”, which possesses a “mass basis and intellectual forces”, which is advancing towards “the decisive political struggle”, towards the “sanguinary struggle of revolutionary Russia against the absolutist-bureaucratic régime” (p. xli).There is not the slightest doubt, therefore, that Mr. R. N. S. ’s “loyal speeches” constitute a special method, an attempt to influence the government (or “public opinion”) by demonstrating his (or other people’s) modesty.

Mr. R. N. S., by the way, thinks that the term “struggle” may be given a very wide interpretation. “The abolition of the Zemstvo,” he writes, “will place a trump card in the hands of revolutionary propagandists—we say this quite objectively [sic!], without, on the one hand, experiencing repulsion against what is usually termed revolutionary action, or, on the other, being carried away with infatuation or admiration for this form [sic!] of struggle for political and social progress." This is a most remarkable tirade. If we remove the quasi-scientific formula, this inappropriate parading of “objectivity” (since the author himself mentions his preference for one or another form of activity or of struggle, the protestation of his objectivity rates in value with the statement, two and two equal one stearin candle), we shall find the hoary argument: Gentlemen of the government, you may believe me when I begin to scare you with revolution, because my heart is not in it. His reference to objectivity is nothing more nor less than a fig-leaf intended to conceal subjective antipathy to revolution and revolutionary activity. And Mr. R. N. S. stands in need of a fig-leaf, because such antipathy is totally incompatible with the vow of Hannibal.

By the way, are we not making a mistake about this Hannibal? Did he really take a vow to struggle against the Romans, or only to fight for the progress of Carthage, which progress, of course, in the final analysis, would be to the injury   of Rome? Can the term “struggle” be understood other wise than in its “narrow” meaning? Mr. R.N.S.thinks it can. A comparison of the vow of Hannibal with the above-mentioned tirade yields the conclusion that struggle against the autocracy manifests itself in various “forms”: one form is the revolutionary, illegal struggle; another form is “struggle for political and social progress” in general, in other words peaceful legal activity, which disseminates culture within the limits permitted by the autocracy. We do not doubt in the least that it is possible even under the autocracy to carry on legal activity which promotes Russian progress, in some cases fairly rapid technological progress, in a few cases insignificant social progress, and, in exceptional cases, political progress to a very slight extent. We may argue about the magnitude of this slight progress and the extent to which it is possible, the extent to which isolated cases of such progress are capable of paralysing the mass political demoralisation which the autocracy is constantly sowing among the population everywhere. But to include, even indirectly, peaceful legal activity in the conception of struggle against the autocracy means to facilitate this work of demoralisation and to weaken the as it is infinitely weak consciousness of the Russian man in the street of his responsibility as citizen for everything the government does.

Unfortunately, Mr. R. N. S. is not alone among the illegal writers who seek to obliterate the difference between revolutionary struggle and peaceful uplift activities. He has a predecessor in the person of B. M., author of the article “Our Reality”, published in the celebrated “Separate Supplement” to Rabochaya Mysl[45] (September 1899). In his controversy with the Social-Democratic revolutionaries, Mr. B. M. wrote: “The struggle for the Zemstvo and for municipal self-government, the struggle for public schools, the struggle for public courts, the struggle for public aid to the famine- stricken population, etc., all represent the struggle against the autocracy.... This social struggle, which for some unexplained reason fails to attract the favourable interest of many Russian revolutionary writers, is, as we have seen, being waged by Russian society, and not only since yesterday.... The question now is how these separate social strata ... can wage the struggle against the autocracy most effectively....   The principal question for us is how this social struggle against the autocracy should be waged by our workers, whose movement our revolutionaries regard as the best means of overthrowing the autocracy” (pp. 8-9). As can be seen, Mr. R. M. does not bother to conceal his antipathy towards the revolutionaries; he openly characterises legal opposition and peaceful activity as struggle against the autocracy, and the most important question for him is how the workers should conduct this struggle. Mr. R. N. S. is not nearly so crude and open, but the kinship between the political trends of this liberal and of the ardent worshipper of the labour movement pure and simple, is very definitely apparent.[19]

With respect to Mr. R. N. S. ’s “objectivity”, we must say that he sometimes simply casts it aside. He is “objective” when he speaks of the working-class movement, of its organic growth, of the future inevitable struggles between revolutionary Social-Democracy and the autocracy, and when he states that the abolition of the Zemstvos will inevitably force the liberals to organise an illegal party. All this is set forth in a very business-like and sober manner, so sober indeed that one can only rejoice that the working-class movement in Russia is so well understood in liberal circles. But when, instead of fighting the enemy, Mr. R. N. S. begins to talk about the possibility of “submission” on the part of the enemy, he forfeits his “objectivity”, gives expression to his real sentiments, and even passes from the indicative mood to the imperative.

“Only in the event of people being found among those in power courageous enough to submit to history and to compel the autocrat to   submit to it, will the final and bloody struggle between revolutionary Russia and the autocratic-bureaucratic régime be avoided.... No doubt there are men among the higher bureaucracy who do not sympathise with the reactionary policy.... These men, the only persons having access to the throne, never dare to express their convictions openly.... Perhaps the enormous shadow of the inevitable, historic day of retribution, the shadow of great events, will cause the government circles to waver and will destroy the iron system of reactionary policy while there is yet time. Comparatively little is required for this now.... Perhaps it [the government] will realise, before it is too late, the fatal danger of protecting the autocratic régime at all costs. Perhaps even before it has to face revolution, it will grow weary of its struggle against the natural and historically necessary development of freedom, and will waver in its ’irreconcilable’ policy. If it ceases to be consistent in its struggle against freedom, it will be obliged to open the door wider and wider for it. It may be ... no, not only may be, but so shall it be!” (Author’s italics).

Amen! is all that we need add to this well-intentioned and lofty monologue. Our Hannibal makes such rapid progress that be now appears before us in a third form. The first was the struggle against the autocracy, the second—the spreading of culture, the third—appeals to the enemy to submit and attempts to frighten him with a “shadow”. How frightful! We quite agree with our respected Mr. R. N. S. that the sanctimonious hypocrites of the Russian Government are sooner frightened by “shadows” than by anything else on earth. Immediately prior to conjuring up shadows, our author, in referring to the growth of the revolutionary forces and to the impending revolutionary outbreak, exclaimed: “We foresee with profound sorrow the horrible price in people and in cultural forces that will have to be paid for this madly aggressive, conservative policy which has neither political sense nor a shadow of moral justification.” What a bottomless pit of doctrinairism and unction is revealed by this conclusion to an argument about the revolutionary out break! The author fails completely to understand the enormous historical significance it would have, if, for once at least, the people of Russia taught the government a good lesson. Instead of showing the “horrible price” the people have paid and are still paying to absolutism, in order to arouse their hatred and indignation and instil in them a readiness and a passion for struggle, you talk about future sacrifices in order to frighten people away   from the struggle. My good gentlemen! It would be far better for you to refrain altogether from talking about the “revolutionary outbreak” than to ruin your reasoning with such a finale. Apparently, you do not wish to create “great events”, you merely want to talk about “the shadow of great events”, and then only with “persons having access to the throne”.

Our legal press, as we know, is chock-full of such talk with shadows and about shadows; and in order to give substance to the shadows, it has become fashionable to refer to the “great reforms” and to sing to them hallelujahs full of conventional lies. An author writing under the surveillance of the censor may sometimes be forgiven such lies, since otherwise he would never be able to express his striving for political reforms. But no censorship hovered over Mr. H. N. S. He writes, “The great reforms were not devised for the greater triumph of the bureaucracy.” How evasive this apologetic phrase is. By whom “devised”? By Herzen, Chernyshevsky, Unkovsky, and those who marched with them? But these people demanded ever so much more than was effected by the “reforms”, and because of this they were persecuted by the government that introduced the “great” reforms. By the government and by those who followed it blindly singing its praises and snarling at the “hot heads”? But the government strove by every means in its power to concede as little as possible, and to curtail the democratic demands precisely for the “greater triumph of the bureaucracy”. Mr. B. N. S. is well aware of these historical facts, and he obscures them only for the reason that they entirely refute his smug theory of the possible “submission” of the autocrat. There is no place for submissiveness in politics, and the time-honoured police method of divide et impera, divide and rule, yield the unimportant in order ’to preserve the essential, give with one hand and take back with the other, can be mistaken for submission only out of unbounded simplicity (both sacred and sly simplicity). ". .When the government of Alexander II devised and introduced the ’great reforms’, it did not at the same time deliberately set itself the aim of cutting off imperatively all the Russian people’s legal roads to political liberty, it did not weigh its every step and every paragraph of the   law with this end in view." This is untrue! The government of Alexander II, both in “devising” the reforms and in introducing them, set out from the very beginning to reject the demands for political freedom then put forward. From the beginning to the end it cut off every legal road to liberty; for it answered even simple appeals with repressions, it never even permitted liberty to be discussed freely. Suffice it to recall the facts mentioned in Witte’s Memorandum, quoted above, to refute Mr. R. N. S.’s paeans of praise. Concerning the persons in the government of Alexander II, Witte expresses himself, for example, as follows: “It must be observed that the prominent statesmen of the sixties, whose celebrated names will be preserved by a grateful posterity, in their time did more that is great than anything their successors may have done; they toiled at the renovation of our state and social system from sincere conviction, not to frustrate the strivings of their ruler, but out of unbounded loyalty to him” (p. 67 of the Memorandum). What is true is true—from sincere conviction, out of unbounded loyalty to the ruler at the head of the police gang....

After this we are not surprised that Mr. II. N. S. says very little about the most important question of the role of the Zemstvos in the struggle for political liberty. Apart from the usual references to the “practical” and “cultural” work of the Zemstvo, he mentions in passing its “educational-political significance”; he says that the “Zemstvo has political significance”, that the Zemstvo, as Mr. Witte clearly sees, “is dangerous [to the present system] only by virtue of the historical tendency of its development—as the embryo of a constitution”. And, concluding these seem ingly casual remarks, comes the following attack upon revolutionaries: “We value Mr. Witte’s work, not only for the truth it tells about the autocracy, but also as a valuable political testimonial to the Zemstvo granted by the bureaucracy itself. This testimonial is an excellent reply to all those who, being devoid of political education or carried away by revolutionary phrases [sic!], have refused to see the enormous political significance of the Russian Zemstvos and their legal cultural activity." Who has revealed a lack of education? Who is carried away? Where and when? With whom does Mr. R. N. S. disagree? And why? To these questions   no reply is forthcoming, and our author’s attack is nothing but an expression of his antipathy towards revolutionaries, which we know from other passages in his essay. Matters are not clarified by the still stranger comment: "By these words we do not desire I?!] to offend revolutionaries whose moral courage in the struggle against tyranny cannot be too highly estimated.” Wherefore this remark? What connection is there between moral courage and inability to appreciate the Zemstvos? Mr. H. N. S. has indeed fallen out of the frying-pan into the fire. First he “offended” the revolutionaries by making an unsupported and “anonymous” (i.e., not known against whom levelled) charge of ignorance and phrase-mongering, and now he commits a fresh “offence” against them by assuming that they can be induced to swallow the charge of ignorance if the pill is sweetened by recognition of their moral courage. To complete the confusion, Mr. H. N. S. contradicts himself by declaring, in chorus, as it were, with those who are “carried away by revolutionary phrases”, that “the modern Russian Zemstvo ... is not a political mag nitude that could impress or overawe anyone by its own direct power.... It can barely maintain its own position”.... “Only in the remote future and only as a result of the cultural development of the whole country could such institutions [as the Zemstvo] ... become a menace to this [absolutist] system.”


Let us, however, try to analyse the issue on which Mr. R. N. S. speaks so angrily and emptily. The facts we have cited above show that the “political significance” of the Zemstvos, i.e., their significance as a factor in the struggle for political freedom, lies principally in the following: first, these bodies of representatives of our propertied classes (particularly the landed aristocracy) forever contrapose elected institutions to the bureaucracy, give rise to constant conflicts between them, expose at every step the reactionary character of the irresponsible tsarist officialdom, and foster discontent and opposition to the autocratic   government.[20] Secondly, the Zemstvos, attached to the bureaucratic chariot like a superfluous fifth wheel, strive to consolidate their position, to increase their significance, and to obtain a constitution by petitioning—“unconsciously march to wards it”, as Witte himself puts the matter. For that reason they are unsuitable as allies of the government in its fight against the revolutionaries; they maintain a benevolent neutrality towards the latter and render them undoubted, if indirect, service by causing the government to waver in its measures of repression at critical moments. Of course, institutions, which hitherto have proved that they are, at best, capable of making only liberal petitions and maintaining benevolent neutrality, cannot be regarded as an “important”, or to any degree an independent, factor in the political struggle; but it cannot be denied that the Zemst vos represent one of the auxiliary factors in the struggle. In this sense we are even prepared, if you will, to regard the Zemstvo as a piece of constitution. Perhaps the reader will say, “Then you agree with Mr. R. N. S., who does not claim any more for them?” Not at all. It is only here that our difference with him begins.

Let us admit for the sake of argument .that the Zemstvo is a piece of constitution. But it is precisely such a piece that was used to decoy Russian “society” away from a constitution. It is precisely such a relatively unimportant position that the autocracy has yielded to growing democracy in order to retain its hold on its principal positions, in order to divide and disunite those who demanded political reforms. We have seen how this policy of disuniting on the basis of “confidence” in the Zemstvo (“the embryo of a constitution”) succeeded in the sixties and in the years 1880-81. The question of the relation of the Zemstvos to politi8cal freedom is a particular case of the general question of the relation of reforms to revolution. This particular case serves to illustrate the narrow-mindedness and stupidity of the fashionable theory of Bernstein,[46] which substitutes reforms for revolutionary struggle and declares (e.g.,   through the mouth of Mr. Berdyaev) that the “principle of progress is that the better things are, the better”. This principle in its general form is as untrue as its reverse that the worse things are, the better. Revolutionaries, of course, will never reject the struggle for reforms, the struggle to capture even minor and unimportant enemy positions, if these will serve to strengthen the attack and help to achieve full victory. But they will never forget that sometimes the enemy himself surrenders a certain position in order to disunite the attacking party and thus to defeat it more easily. They will never forget that only by constantly having the “ultimate aim   in view, only by appraising every step of the “movement” and every reform from the point of view of the general revolutionary struggle, is it possible to guard the movement against false steps and shameful mistakes.

It is this aspect of the question—the significance of the Zemstvo as an instrument for strengthening the autocracy through half-concessions, as a means of bringing over a certain section of the liberals to the side of the autocracy— that Mr. R. N. S. has completely failed to understand. He has preferred to invent for his own use a doctrinaire scheme by which the Zemstvos and the constitution are connected by the straight-line “formula”, the better things are, the better. “If you first abolish the Zemstvos in Russia,” he says, addressing himself to Witte, “and then increase the rights of the individual, you will lose the good opportunity of giving the country a moderate constitution growing historically out of local self-government with a social-estate appearance. At all events you will render the cause of conservatism a distinct disservice.” What a beautiful and harmonious conception! Local self-government with a social-estate tinge—a wise conservative, having access to the throne—a moderate constitution. The unfortunate thing about it is that in actual practice, the wise conservatives have on more than one occasion, thanks’ to the Zemstvos, found “good opportunities” to withhold the constitution from the country.

Mr. R. N. S.’s peaceful “conception” had its effect also on the slogan with which he concludes his essay and Which is printed in the manner of a slogan, as a separate line and   in heavy type: “Rights, and an Authoritative All-Russian Zemstvo!” It must be frankly acknowledged’ that this is the same sort of indecent flirting with the political prejudices of the broad masses of Russian liberals as Rabochaya Mysl’s flirting with the political prejudices of the broad masses of the workers. We are duty-bound to raise a protest in the first as in the second case against such flirting. It is prejudice to believe that the government of Alexander II did not cut off the legal road to liberty, that the Zemstvos provide a good opportunity for granting a moderate constitution to the country, and that the slogan, “Rights, and an Authoritative Zemstvo” can serve as the banner of, we shall not say the revolutionary, but even the constitutional, movement. This is not a banner that can serve to distinguish. enemies from allies, or help to direct and guide the movement; it is but a rag that can only help the most unreliable characters to creep into the movement, and assist the government to make still another attempt to come off with high-sounding promises and indecisive reforms. One need not be a prophet to be able to prophesy this. Our revolutionary movement will reach its apogee, the liberal ferment in society will increase tenfold, and other Loris-Melikovs and Ignatyevs will appear in the government and inscribe on their banner: “Rights, and an Authoritative Zemstvo”. But if it came to pass, it would be the most unfavourable outcome for Russia and the most favour able for the government. If any considerable section of the liberals put their faith in that banner, and, allowing themselves to be carried away by it, attack the revolutionary “hotheads” in the rear, the latter may find themselves cut off, and the government will try to restrict itself to a minimum of concessions limited to something in the nature of an advisory and aristocratic constitution. Whether this attempt will be successful or not, depends upon the outcome of the decisive struggle between the revolutionary proletariat and the government; but of one thing we may be certain—the liberals will be betrayed. With the aid of slogans like those advanced by Mr. R. N. S. (“Authoritative Zemstvo”, etc.), the government will decoy them like puppies away from the revolutionaries, only to take them by the scruff of the neck and thrash them with the whip   of reaction. And when that happens, gentlemen, we will not forget to say, Serves you right!

Why, instead of a demand for the abolition of absolutism, is such a moderate and chastened wish put forward as ultimate slogan? First, for the sake of the philistine doctrinairism that desires to render a “service to conservatism” and believes that the government will be softened by such moderation and be rendered “submissive” by it. Secondly, in order to “unite the liberals”. Indeed, the slogan “Rights, and an Authoritative Zemstvo” can perhaps serve to unite all liberals in the same way as (in the opinion of the “Economists”) the slogan “add a kopek to each ruble”[21] will unite all the workers. But will not such unity be a loss rather than a gain? Unity is an advantage when it raises those who are united to the level of the class-conscious and decisive programme of the unifying force. Unity is a disadvantage when it lowers the unifying force to the level of the prejudices of the masses. Among Russian liberals there is undoubtedly a widespread prejudice that the Zemstvo is indeed the “embryo of a constitution”,[22] the “natural”, peaceful, and gradual growth of which is accidentally retarded   by the intrigues of certain immoral time-servers, that only a few petitions are necessary in order to bring the autocrat to “submission”, that legal cultural work generally and Zemstvo work in particular have “considerable political significance”, relieving those who mouth verbal hostility to the autocracy of the obligation actively to support the revolutionary struggle against the autocracy in one way or another, and so forth, and so on. Undoubtedly, it would be very useful and desirable to unite the liberals; but the unity must be one whose purpose is to combat outworn prejudices and not to play up to them, to raise the general level of our political development (or rather underdevelopment), and not to sanction it—in a word, it must be a unity for the purpose of supporting the illegal struggle and not for the purpose of opportunistic phrase-mongering about the great political significance of legal activity. If there can be no justification for issuing to the workers the political slogan “Freedom to Strike”, etc., then, by the same token, there can be no justification for issuing to the liberals the slogan “An Authoritative Zemstvo”. Under the autocracy every kind of Zemstvo, however “authoritative” it may be, will inevitably be a deformity, incapable of development, while under a constitution the Zemstvo will immediately lose its present-day “political” significance.

The unification of liberals is possible in two ways: by forming an independent liberal party (illegal, of course), or by organising liberal aid for revolutionaries. Mr. R. N. S. himself points to the first form, but ... if what he says in this connection is to be taken as a genuine expression of the views and prospects of liberalism, then it does not give grounds for very great optimism. He writes: “Without a Zemstvo, the Zemstvo liberals will have to form a liberal party or abandon the historical stage as an organised force. We are convinced that the organisation of liberals in an illegal party, even if its programme and its methods are very moderate, will be the inevitable result of the abolition of the Zemstvo." If that is the case, we shall have to wait a long time, for even Witte does not wish to abolish the Zemstvos, and as for the Russian Government it is very much concerned with preserving their outward form, even if their content is completely eliminated. That a liberal   party will be a very moderate one is quite natural, and it is useless to expect that the movement among the bourgeoisie (for only on that movement can a liberal party be based) will give rise to any other. But what should be the activities and the “methods” of such a party? Mr. R. N. S. does not explain. He says: “An illegal liberal party, being an organisation consisting of the most moderate and least mobile of the opposition elements, cannot by itself develop a particularly extensive, or particularly intensive, activity....” We think, however, that in a certain sphere, although limited by local and above all by Zemstvo interests, the liberal party could very well develop an extensive and intensive activity, such as the organisation of political exposures.... “But with such activity on the part of other parties, especially the Social-Democratic or working-class party, the liberal party, even without entering into any direct agreement with the Social-Democrats, can become a highly important factor....” Very true; and the reader will naturally expect that the author would, at least in general outline, describe the work of this “factor”. But instead of doing so, Mr. R. N. S. describes the growth of revolutionary Social-Democracy and concludes: “With the existence of a pronounced political movement ... a liberal opposition, if it is in the least organised, can play an important political role; with proper tactics, a moderate party always stands to gain from an accentuated struggle between extreme social elements....” That is all! The “role” of the “factor” (which has already managed to convert it self from a party into an “opposition”) is to “take advantage” of the growing acuteness of the struggle. Mention is made of what the liberals stand to gain, but not a word is said about the liberals taking part in the struggle. The slip of the tongue, one may say, is providential....

The Russian Social-Democrats never closed their eyes to the fact that the political liberties for which they are first and foremost fighting will benefit primarily the bourgeoisie. Only a socialist steeped in the worst prejudices of utopianism, or reactionary Narodism, would for that reason object to carrying on the struggle against the autocracy. The bourgeoisie will benefit by these liberties and rest on its laurels—the proletariat, however, must have, freedom   in order to develop the struggle for socialism to the utmost. And Social-Democracy will persistently carry on the struggle for liberation, regardless of the attitude of the various strata of the bourgeoisie towards it. In the interests of the political struggle, we must support every opposition to the oppressive autocracy, no matter on what grounds and in what social stratum it manifests itself. For that reason, we are by no means indifferent to the opposition expressed by our liberal bourgeoisie in general, and by our Zemstvo liberals in particular. If the liberals succeed in organising themselves in an illegal party, so much the better. We shall welcome the growth of political consciousness among the propertied classes; we will support their demands, we will endeavour to work so that the activities of the liberals and the Social-Democrats mutually supplement each other.[23] But even if they fail to do so (which is more probable), we shall not give them up as lost, we will endeavour to strength en contacts with individual liberals, acquaint them with our movement, support them by exposing in the labour press all the despicable acts of the government and the local authorities, and try to induce them to support the revolutionaries. Such an exchange of services between liberals and Social-Democrats is already proceeding; it must be extended and made permanent. But while always ready to carry on this exchange of services, we will never, under any circumstances, cease to carry on a determined struggle against the illusions that are so widespread in the politically undeveloped Russian society generally and among Russian liberals in particular. Paraphrasing the celebrated statement of Marx in regard to the Revolution of i848, we may say of the Russian revolutionary movement that its progress lies, not so much in the achievement of any positive gains, as in emancipation from harmful illusions.[47]   We have emancipated ourselves from the illusions of anarchism and Narodnik socialism, from contempt for politics, from the belief in the exceptionalist development of Russia, from the conviction that the people are ready for revolution, and from the theory of the seizure of power and the duel-like combat between the autocracy and the heroic intelligentsia.

It is time our liberals emancipated themselves from the illusion, theoretically untenable, one might assume, yet very tenacious in practice, that it is still possible to hold parley with the Russian autocracy, that some kind of Zemstvo is the embryo of a constitution, and that the sincere adherents of the constitution can fulfil their vow of Hannibal by patient legal activity and by patient appeals to the enemy to turn submissive.


[1] I refer, of course, only to that “antidote”—by no means the sole or even the most “powerful” one—which is represented by the press. —Lenin

[2] The Autocracy and the Zemstvo. A Confidential Memorandum by the Minister of Finance, S. Y. Witte, with a preface arid annotations by R.N.S. Published by Zarya.[48] Stuttgart, Verlag von J.H. W. Dietz Nachf., 1901, pp. xliv and 212. —Lenin

[3] Dragomanov, “Zemstvo Liberalism in Russia”, p. 4. Witte very often fails to mention that he has quoted from Dragomanov (cf., for example, pp. 36-37 of the Memorandum and pp. 55-56 of the above-mentioned article), although he refers to him in some other passages. —Lenin

[4] Gubernia, uyezd, volost—Russian administrative-territorial units. The largest of these was the gubernia, which had its subdi visions in uyezds, which in turn were subdivided into volosts. This system of districting continued under the Soviet power until the introduction of the new system of administrative-territorial division of the country in 1929-30.—Tr.

[5] Dragomanov, op. cit., p. 5. Cited in an abridged form in the Memorandum, p. 64, with a reference, not to Dragomanov, but to Kolokol, No. 126, and to Revue des deux Mondes, June 15, 1862.[49]Lenin

[6] Incidentally, one of the initiators of this petition, Nikolai Alexandrovich Bakunin, a younger brother of the famed M. A. Bakunin, passed away recently (April 19, this year, i.e., 1901) at his estate in Tver Gubernia. Nikolai Alexandrovich signed the petition of 1862, together with his younger brother Alexei and other mediators. This petition, relates the author of an item on N.A. Bakunin, published in one of our newspapers, called down punishment upon its signatories. After a year’s confinement in the Fortress of Peter and Paul the signatories were released, but Nikolai Alexandrovich and his brother Alexei were not pardoned (they had not signed the petition for pardon) and as a consequence, were prohibited from holding public office. After that, N. A. Bakunin never made a public appearance, nor could he speak publicly again.... In this manner our government retaliated against the lawful actions of the landed nobility at the time of “the great reforms”! And this was in 1862, prior to the Polish rebellion, at a time when even Katkov[50] proposed the convocation of a Zemsky Sobor. [Zemsky Sober (National Assembly) and   National Duma were current, in Russian literature of the sixties of the past century as terms denoting national representative assembly.—Tr.] —Lenin

[7] Cf. V. Burtsev, One Hundred Years, p. 39. —Lenin

[8] L. Panteleyev, “Reminiscences of the Sixties”, in the collection of essays, At the Glorious Post (p. 315).[51] This minor piece contains a number of very interesting facts on the revolutionary unrest in 1861-62 and on the police reaction.... “Early in 1862 the social atmosphere was extremely tense; the slightest incident could have given a strong impetus to the course of events in either direction. The impetus was given by the great conflagrations that occurred in St. Petersburg in May of that year.” These fires first broke out on May 16 and raged with particular fierceness on May 22 and 23—on the latter date there were five conflagrations. On May 28, the Apraksin Place [a market-place in St. Petersburg named after its owner, Count Apraksin.—Tr.] caught fire and a wide area surrounding it was laid waste. The populace attributed these fires to the students, and the rumours were taken up by the newspapers. The manifesto To Young Russia, proclaiming a bloody war against the whole existing system and justifying every means to this end, was taken to confirm the rumours of incendiarism. “After May 28, something in the nature of martial law was proclaimed in St. Petersburg.” A special committee was established with powers to take extraordinary measures for the protection of the capital. The city was divided into three zones, each under the control of a military governor. A field court martial was set up to try those accused of incendiarism. Sovremennik[52] and Russkoye Slovo[53] were suspended for eight months; Dyen,[54] published by Aksakov, was suppressed. Stringent temporary press regulations (sanctioned on May 12, i.e., before the fires broke out; consequently, “the progress of events” was towards reaction and was unrelated to the fires, the opinion of Mr. Panteleyev notwithstanding) and regulations for the surveillance of printing locations were resorted to. Numerous political arrests were made (Chernyshevsky and N. Serno-Solovyevich, Rymarenko, and others); Sunday schools and public reading-rooms were closed; permits for public lectures in St. Petersburg   became more difficult to obtain; and the second department of the Literary Fund[55] and even the Chess Club[56] were closed down.

The Committee of Inquiry failed to establish any connection between the fires and politics. One of its members, Stolbovsky, told Mr. Panteleyev that in the Committee “he succeeded in exposing the principal false witnesses who, it seems, were the cat’s-paw of police agents” (325-26). Thus, there are weighty grounds for believing that the rumours about student incendiarism were circulated by the police. The despicable exploitation of the ignorance of the people for the purpose of slandering revolutionaries and protesters was, therefore, in full swing at the height of the “epoch of great reforms”. —Lenin

[9] Interpolations in square brackets (within passages quoted by Lenin) have been introduced by Lenin, unless otherwise indicated.—Tr.

[10] We quote from the German translation of Dragomanov’s edition of the correspondence of K. D. Kavelin and I. S. Turgenev with A. I. Herzen: Bibliothek russiseher Denkwürdigkeiten, herausgegeben von Th. Schiemann, Stuttgart, 1894, Bd. 4, S. 65-66. —Lenin

[11] There is “no doubt” that the author of the Memorandum in employing the language of Leroy-Beaulien, commits the usual bureaucratic exaggeration. There is “no doubt” that neither Lanskoi nor Milyutin had anything very definite in mind, and it is ridiculous to regard the evasive phrases of Milyutin (“in principle in favour of the Constitution, but regards its introduction as premature”) as a “first step”. —Lenin

[12] A letter written by Kavelin to relatives in f 865, in which he refers to the petition of the Moscow nobility for “the convocation of a general assembly of representatives of the land of Russia to discuss needs common to the whole state”. —Lenin

[13] Dragomanov said in all justice: “As a matter of fact, liberalism In Russia cannot employ absolutely ’peaceful means’, because every declaration in favour of changing the higher administration is prohibited by law. The Zemstvo liberals should have stepped resolutely over the bounds of this prohibition, and in this way at least have demonstrated their strength to both the government and the terrorists. As the Zemstvo liberals did not demonstrate this strength, they lived to see the day when the government revealed its intention to destroy the already truncated Zemstvo institutions” (ibid., pp. 41-42). —Lenin

[14] Poryadok (Order); Strana (The Country); Golos (The Voice).—Ed.

[15] As we have seen the author of the Memorandum most care fully copies from illegal pamphlets and admits that “the underground press and the literary works published abroad quite correctly judged the position on this question from their point of view” (p. 91). The only thing original produced by this learned Russian “political scientist” is a certain amount of raw material; he has had to borrow all the fundamental points of view regarding political questions in Russia from underground literature. —Lenin

[16] A nom de plume used by Mr. Struve. (Author’s comment to the 1907 edition.—Ed.) —Lenin

[17] P. 205. “This is even silly,” observes R. N. S. in a footnote to this passage. Quite so. But is not R. N. S.’s reasoning on pp. xi-xii of his preface, cited above, moulded from the same clay? —Lenin

[18] Witte’s Memorandum, pp. 122-23. The Constitution of Count Loris-Melikov, p. 24. —Lenin

[19] “The economic organisations of the workers,” says Mr. R. N. S. in another passage,"Will serve as a school for the real political education of the working masses." We would advise our author to be more careful in employing the term “real”, which has been worn thin by the knights of opportunism. It cannot be denied that under certain conditions their economic organisations may help the workers very considerably in their political training (no more than it can be denied that under other circumstances they may help in their political demoralisation). But the masses of the workers can obtain real political training only by their participation in all aspects of the revolutionary movement, including open street fighting and civil war against the defenders of political and economic slavery. —Lenin

[20] See the extremely detailed treatment of this aspect of the question in the pamphlet by P. B. Axelrod, The Historical Position and the Mutual Relations between Liberal and Socialist Democracy in Russia, Geneva, 1898. See particularly pp. 5, 8, 11-12, 17-19. —Lenin

[21] I.e., a one per cent wage increase.—Tr.

[22] As to what may be expected from the Zemstvo, it may not be without interest to quote the following opinion expressed by Prince P. V. Dolgorukov in his Listok,[57] published in the sixties (Burtsev, op. cit., pp. 64-67): “In examining the main regulations governing the Zemstvo institutions, we again come across the selfsame secret thought of the government, which continually breaks out into the light, viz., to overwhelm with generosity, to proclaim loudly, ’See how much I am giving you!’—yet to give as little as possible, and even to impose restrictions upon the enjoyment of the little that is given.... Under the present autocratic system, the Zemstvo institu tions do not and cannot bring any benefits, and will not and cannot have any significance, but they are rich in the seeds of fruitful development in the future.... New Zemstvo institutions may well be destined to serve as the basis for the future constitutional order in Russia.... But as long as Russia lacks a constitutional system of government, as long as the autocracy exists, and as long as freedom of the press is denied, the Zemstvo institutions will be doomed to remain political phantoms, mute assemblies of those who should voice the interests of the people." Thus, even in the sixties, Dolgorukov was not very optimistic. The forty years that have passed since then have taught us much and have demonstrated that the Zemstvos were destined by “fate” (and partly by the government) to serve as the basis for a series of measures to overwhelm the constitutionalists. —Lenin

[23] The present writer had occasion to point out the utility of a liberal party four years ago, in commenting upon the Narodnoye Pravo Party.[58] See The Tasks of the Russian Social-Democrats (Geneva, 1893, p. 26): "... If, however, the party [Narodnoye Pravo] also contains not masquerade, but real non-socialist politicians, non- socialist democrats, then this party can do no little good by striving to draw closer to the political opposition among our bourgeoisie (See present edition, Vol. 2, p. 345.—Ed.) —Lenin

[24] “The Persecutors of the Zemstvo and the Hannibals of Liberalism” is a criticism of the confidential Memorandum, “The Autocracy and the Zemstvo”, written by the tsarist minister S.Y. Witte and published abroad illegally, and of the preface to it written by the liberal P. B. Struve.

Lenin’s article occasioned serious disagreement among the editors of Iskra, Plekhanov and several other members of the Editorial Board expressing themselves against it.

The polemic over the article which the Board members conducted in their correspondence lasted about a month. Lenin accepted some suggestions to alter certain particular formulations, but emphatically refused to modify the sharp tone of exposure and the direction of the article.

[48] Zarya (Dawn)—a Marxist scientific and political magazine published in Stuttgart in 1901-02 by the Iskra Editorial Board.

The following articles of Lenin were published in Zarya: “Casual Notes”, “The Persecutors of the Zemstvo and the Hannibals of Liberalism”, the first four chapters of “The Agrarian Question   and the ‘Critics of Marx’\thinspace” (published tinder the title “The ’Critics’ on the Agrarian Question”), “Review of Home Affairs”, “The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social-Democracy”. Altogether four numbers (in three issues) appeared: No. 1—April ’1901 (actually on March 23, new style); Nos. 2-3—December 1901, and No. 4—August 1902.

[25] The “Regulations Governing Redemption by Peasants Who Have Emerged from Serf Dependence” signed by Alexander II on February 19, 1861, together with the Manifesto announcing the abolition of serfdom.

[49] Kolokol (The Bell)—a revolutionary periodical published under the motto of Vivos voco! (I call on the living!) by A. I. Herzen and N. P. Ogaryov from July 1, 1857 to April 1865, in London and from 1865 to December ’1868, in Geneva. In 1868 the periodical was published in French with a supplement in Russian. Kolokol was published in an edition of 2,500 copies and spread throughout Russia. It exposed the tyranny of the autocracy, the plunder and embezzlement of the civil servants, and the ruthless exploitation of the peasants by the landlords.

Kolokol was the leading organ of the revolutionary uncensored press and the precursor of the working-class press in Russia; it played an important role in the development of the general-dem ocratic and revolutionary movement, in the struggle against the autocracy and against serfdom.

La Revue des deux mondes (Review of the Two Worlds)—a French bourgeois-liberal monthly published in Paris from 1829 to 1940. It began as a literary and art journal, but subsequently began to devote considerable space to philosophy and politics. Some of the most eminent writers contributed to the review—- among them Victor Hugo, George Sand, Honoré de Balzac, and Alexandre Dumas. Since 1948 it has been published under the title La Revue. Literature, histoire, arts et sciences des deux mondes (The Review. The literature, history, arts and sciences of the two worlds).

[50] Katkov, M. N.—reactionary journalist. From 1851 he edited Moskovskiye Vedomosti (Moscow Recorder). He was a rabid opponent, not only of the revolutionary movement, but of all social progress.

[26] Civil mediator—an administrative office instituted by the tsarist government at the time of the implementation of the ’Peasant Reform” of 1861. The civil mediators, appointed by the governor from among the local nobility, were empowered to investigate and render decisions on conflicts between peasants and land lords that occurred during the implementation of the “Regulations” on the emancipation of the peasants; they were actually intended to be protectors of the interests of the ruling classes. The chief function of the civil mediators was to draw up “title   deeds” which gave the precise dimensions of the peasants’ allotments and their location, as well as details of the obligations of the peasants; the mediators were also charged with the supervision of peasant local self-government bodies. The mediators approved the elected officials of the peasant administration, had the right to impose penalties upon them, to arrest or fine them, and to annul the decisions of village meetings.

In this passage Lenin refers to the liberal-minded civil mediators in Tver Gubernia, who refused to implement the “Regulations” and who decided to be guided in their work by the decisions of the Assembly of the Nobility in their gubernia; this Assembly, in February 1862, had formally recognised the unsatisfactory nature of the “Regulations” and the necessity for the immediate redemption of peasant lands with state aid, as well as the introduction of a number of democratic institutions. The Tver civil mediators were arrested by the tsarist government and each was sentenced to over two years’ imprisonment.

[27] Raznochintsi (i.e., “men of different estates”)—the Russian commoner-intellectuals, drawn from the small townsfolk, the clergy, the merchant classes, the peasantry, as distinct from those drawn from the nobility.

[28] To Young Russia—a proclamation issued by P. G. Zaichnevaky’s revolutionary group in May 1862. The proclamation called for revolutionary action against the autocracy and advanced the slogan for a social and democratic Russian republic” in the form of a federation of the regions.

[29] Chernyshevsky, N. G. (1828-1889)—the great Russian revolutionary democrat, materialist philosopher, scholar, critic, and author; the leader of the revolutionary movement in the sixties of the past century. In 1862 Chernyshevsky was arrested and sentenced to 14 years’ penal servitude and exile for life in Siberia; he was allowed to return only in 1883. Chernyshevsky had a tremendous influence on the development of Russian progressive social thought.

[51] At the Glorious Post—a collection published by the Narodniks to commemorate forty years of literary and social activity (1860-1900) of the Narodnik ideologist N. K. Mikhailovsky.

[52] Sovremennik (The Contemporary)—a monthly scientific, political, and literary journal founded by Alexander Pushkin; published in St. Petersburg from 1836 to 1866. From 1847 it was published by N. A. Nekrasov and I. I. Panayev. Among the contributors were V. G. Belinsky, N. G. Chernyshevsky, M. A. Dobrolyubov, N. V. Shelgunov, M. Y. Saltykov-Shchedrin, and M. A. Antonovich. Sovremennik was the most progressive journal of its day; it voiced the aspirations of revolutionary democracy. It was closed down by the tsarist government in 1866.

[53] Russkoye Slovo (Russian Word)—a prominently progressive literary and political monthly published in St. Petersburg from 1859 to 1866; among its contributors were D. I. Pisarev and N. V. Shelgunov. The journal had considerable influence among the youth of the sixties.It was closed down by the tsarist government in 1866.

[54] Dyen (The Day)—a weekly newspaper published in Moscow from 1861 to 1865 by I. S. Aksakov.

[55] Literary Fund (The Literary Fund Society for Aid to Indigent Writers and Scientists and Their Families)—a legal benevolent society founded in St. Petersburg in 1859 with the participation of N. G. Chernyshevsky. Under the pretext of helping indigent writers and scientists, the organisers made an attempt to muster the progressive, revolutionary-minded section of the intelligentsia. In April 1862 an attempt was made by progressives to establish a legal student society through the founding of a “Department for Aid to Poor Students”. The Department was headed by a student committee. A considerable section of the committee was connected with the illegal revolutionary organisation Zemlya i Volya (Land and Freedom). In June 1862 the Department was closed by the tsarist government.

[56] The Chess Club was founded on the initiative of N. G. Chernyshevsky and his closest associates in St. Petersburg in January 1862. Among the leading members of the Club were N. A. Nekrasov, the brothers A. A. and N. A. Serno-Solovyevich, the brothers V. S. and N. S. Kurochkin, P. L. Lavrov, G. Y. Blagosvetlov, G. Z. Yeliseyev, and N. G. Pomyalovsky. Members of the illegal Zemlya i Volya organisation also belonged to the Club. The Chess Club was actually a literary club, the centre of the St. Petersburg revolutionary-minded intelligentsia. In June 1862 the Club was closed by the Tsarist government.

[30] Radishchev, A. N. (1749-1802)—-Russian writer and revolutionary. In his famous work A Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, he made the first open attack on serfdom in Russia. By order of Catherine If he was sentenced to death for the book, but the sentence was commuted to 10 years’ exile in Siberia, He returned from exile under amnesty, hut when the tsarist government threatened him with new persecutions he committed suicide. Lenin considered Radishchev to have been one of the most out standing champions of progress among the Russian people.

[31] Arakcheyev, A. A—reactionary tsarist statesman at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of nineteenth centuries; he greatly influenced home and foreign policies during the reigns of Paul I and Alexander I. An epoch of unlimited police despotism and the outrages of the controlling military is associated with his name (“Arakcheyevshchisia”).

[32] The Decembrist Revolt—led by a group of revolutionaries from the nobility who opposed the autocracy and serfdom.

[33] Lenin refers to the participation of the troops of Tsar Nicholas I in the suppression of the revolutionary movement in Europe in 1848-49 particularly the revolution in Hungary in 1849.

[34] États généraux (The States General)—a representative hody of the social-estates of France from the fourteenth to the eighteenth cen tury, consisting of deputies from the nobility, the clergy, and the Third Estate; it was convened by the king for the settlement of administrative and financial questions. The States General were not convened for 175 years—from 1614 to 1789. When they were convened in 1789 by Louis XVI for the purpose of settling the financial crisis, the hody was proclaimed as the National Assembly by a decision of the deputies representing the Third Estate.

[35] Herzen, A. I. (1812-1870)—prominent Russian revolutionary democrat, materialist philosopher, publicist, and author. p. 42

[36] General Vannovsky, appointed Minister of Education in 1901, made use of liberal phrases such as “love” and “heartfelt solicitude” for the student youth, with the aim of quietening the student disturbances. After introducing a numher of insignificant reforms in the sphere of education, he resorted to renewed repressive measures against the revolutionary students—arrests, banishment, expulsions from universities, etc.

[37] Volnoye Slovo (Free Word)—a weekly,, and from No. 37 a fort-nightly, periodical published in Geneva from 1881 to 1883; alto gether 62 issues appeared. Volnoye Slovo claimed to have as its pur pose the unification of opposition elements and propagated liberal ideas on the need to reform the Russian social system on “principles of freedom and self-government”. Actually it was founded with the knowledge of the secret police by members of the Holy Guard (a secret organisation promoted by the biggest landed nobility and high government officials, headed hy Prince A. P. Shuvalov and others) for purposes of political provocation. Volnoye Slovo was edited by the police agent A. P. Malshinsky.

At the end of 1882 the Holy Guard collapsed and Volnoye Slovo, beginning with No. 52 (January 8, 1883), was edited by M. P. Dra gomanov; it claimed to be the organ of the Zemstvo League, which did not exist as a permanent and properly-constituted organisation.

[38] Pravitelstvenny Vestnik (Government Herald)—official government newspaper published in St. Petersburg from 1869 to 1917.

[39] The Assembly of Notables of Louis XVI—an assembly of the highest representatives of the privileged social-estates of France convened by King Louis XVI in 1787 and 1788 to settle the country’s financial   crisis. The Assembly refused to pass an ordinance taxing the priv ileged social-estates and Louis XVI was forced to convene the States General.

[40] Dictatorship of the heart—the name given ironically to the short-lived policy of flirting with the liberals, pursued by the tsarist official Loris-Mehikov, who, in 1880, was appointed chief of the Supreme Administrative Commission to combat “sedition” and, later, Minister of the Interior.

[41] Sotsial-Demokrat (Social-Democrat)— a literary-political review published abroad by the Emancipation of Labour group in the period 1890-92. Altogether four issues appeared.

Lenin quotes an article by Vera Zasulich entitled ’Revolution aries from the Bourgeois Milieu”, published in No. I for 1890.

[42] Narodnaya Volya (The People’s Will)—a secret Narodnik terrorist organisation, whose members carried out the assassination of Alexander II, on March 1, 1881; it came into being in August. 1879, following the split in the secret society Zemlya i Volya (Land and Freedom). The Narodnaya Volyn was headed by an Executive Committee which included A. I. Zhelyabov, A. D. Mikhailov, M. F. Frolenko, N. A. Morozov, V. N. Figner, S. L. Perovskaya, and A. A. Kvyatkovsky. The immediate aim of the Narodnaya Volya was the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy while its programme provided for the establishment of a “permanent popular representative body” elected on the basis of universal suffrage, the proclamation of democratic liberties, the transfer of land to the people, and the elaboration of measures for the factories to pass into the hands of the workers. The Narodnaya Volya, however, was unable to find the road to the masses of the people and took to political conspiracy and individual terror. The terrorist struggle of the Narodnaya Volya was not supported by a mass revolutionary movement; this enabled the government to crush the organisation by fierce persecution, death sentences, and provocation.

After 1881 the Narodnaya Volya ceased to exist as an organisation. Repeated attempts to revive it, made during the 1880s ended in failure. An instance was the terrorist group that was formed in 1886, headed by A. I. Ulyanov (Lenin’s brother) and P. Y. Shevyrev; after an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Alexander Ill the group was exposed and its active members were executed.

Although he criticised the erroneous, utopian programme of the Narodnaya Volya, Lenin showed great respect for the selfless struggle waged by its members against tsarism. In 1899, in “A Protest by Russian Social-Democrats”, Lenin stated that “the members of the old Narodnaya Volya managed to play an enormous role in the history of Russia, despite the fact that only narrow social strata supported the few heroes, and despite the fact that it was by no means a revolutionary theory which served as the banner of the movement” (see present edition, Vol. 4, p. 181).

[43] Land redemption payments were fixed by the “Regulations Governing Redemption by Peasants Who Have Emerged from Serf Dependence”, approved on February 19, 1861. The tsarist government compelled peasants to pay redemption money for the land allotted to them at a rate several times higher than the actual value of the land. Upon the conclusion of the redemption deal, the government paid a sum of money to the landlord as redemption money, which sum was regarded as a debt to be repaid by the peasant in annual instalments over a period of 49 years. The “land redemption payments” were unbearably burdensome for the peasants and led to mass ruin and pauperisation. Peasants who had formerly been landlord’s serfs alone paid a sum of about 2,000 million rubles to the tsarist government, while the land they received was not worth more than 544 million rubles. Since the deals did not take effect immediately, but at various times up to 1883, the payments were to have continued until 1932. The peasant movement at the time of the First Russian Revolution (1905-07), however, compelled the tsarist government to cancel the land redemption payments as from January 1907.

[44] Rural superintendent—an office instituted by the tsarist government in 1889 to increase the power of the landlords over the peasantry. The rural superintendents, appointed from among the local landed nobility, were granted tremendous powers, not only administrative, but juridical, which included the right to arrest peasants and order corporal punishment.

[45] Separate Supplementto Rabochaya Mysl—a pamphlet published by the editors of the “Economist” newspaper Rabochaya Mysl in September 1899. The pamphlet, especially the included article “Our Reality”, signed R. M., was a candid exposé of the opportunist views of the “Economists”. Lenin criticised the pamphlet in his article “A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social-Democracy” (see present edition, Vol. 4, pp. 255-85), and in his book What Is To Be Done? (see present volume, pp. 361-67, 397, 407-08).

[46] Bernsteinism—an anti-Marxist trend in international Social-Democracy which arose in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century and derived its name from the German Social-Democrat Eduard Bernstein. Bernstein set out to revise the revolutionary teachings of Marx in the spirit of bourgeois liberalism.

In Russia Bernsteinism had its adherents in the “legal Marxists”, the “Economists”, the Bundists, and the Mensheviks. p. 73

[57] Listok (Small Paper)—a monthly newspaper of constitutional liberal views published illegally abroad by Prince P. V. Dolgorukov. Altogether twenty-two numbers were issued between November 1862 and July 1864. The first five numbers were issued in Brussels, the others in London.

[58] Narodnoye Pravo (People’s Right) Party—an underground organisation of the democratic intelligentsia formed in 1893, with the   assistance of ex-members of the Narodnaya Volya (M. A. Natanson and others), and crushed by the tsarist government in the spring of 1894. The Narodnoye Pravo issued two programmatic documents “An Urgent Question” and “Manifesto”. Most of the Narodnoye Pravo members subsequently joined the Socialist Revolutionary Party.

[47] Lenin refers here to a thesis in Marx’s The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850 (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 139).

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