V. I.   Lenin

Mr. Struve Exposed by His Colleague

Published: Iskra, No. 37 (?), April 1, 1903. Published according to the Iskra text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 6, pages 354-360.
Translated: ??? ???
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala and D. Walters
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No. 17 of Osvobozhdeniye produced much that is gratifying to Iskra in general, and to the author of these lines in particular. To Iskra because it was gratifying for it to see. that its endeavours to push Mr. Struve to the Left had yielded some result; it was gratifying to see Mr. S.S. indulging in sharp criticism of half-heartedness, gratifying to read about the intention of the Osvobozhdeniye people to create “openly and definitely a constitutional party” with a programme demanding universal suffrage. To the author of these lines because Mr. S.S.—“who took a prominent part” in drawing up the declaration “of the Russian constitutioflalists” in No. 1 of Osvobozhdentye, and hence is no mere collaborator, but to some extent the master of Mr. Struve—has unexpectedly rendered us a great service in our polemic against Mr. Struve. I shall take the liberty of beginning with this second point. No. 2-3 of Zarya carried an article of mine entitled “The Persecutors of the Zemstvo and the Hannibals of Liberalism,”[See present edition, Vol. 5.—Ed.] in which I polemised against Mr. B. N. S., who had written a preface to the well-known Witte memorandum. In this article I revealed the ambiguity of the entire stand taken by Mr. R.N.S., when he spoke of his Hannibal vow to fight against the autocracy and at the same time addressed unctuous speeches to the powers that be, to the sage conservatives, at the same time advancing the “formula” of “Rights, and an Authoritative Zemstvo,” etc., etc. Now that the second edition of the “Memorandum” has appeared, the public has learned that this Mr. R.N. S. is—Mr. Struve. Mr. Struve was highly displeased with my criticism, and he came down heavily on me with his extremely lengthy and extremely irate “Note to a Note.”

  Let us examine Mr. Struve’s arguments.

The first example of the “groundlessness and injustice” of my “polemical masterpiece” is that I spoke about Mr. Struve’s antipathy against revolutionaries, despite his “alleged absolutely clear statement.” Let me cite this statement in full. “The testimonial presented to the Zemstvo by the bureaucracy itself,” Mr. Struve wrote, “is an excellent reply to all those who, because of an inadequate political education or because they are carried away by revolutionary phrases, refused and persist in refusing to see the great political importance of the Russian Zemstvos and their legal cultural activity.” In a note to this tirade, Mr. Struve made the reservation: “By these words we do not intend in the least to give offence to the revolutionaries, to whom credit must be accorded above all for their moral courage in the struggle against despotism.”

These are the “documents in the case” of groundless and unjust criticism. We leave it to the reader to judge who is right: the person who found this statement absolutely clear, or the person who has found that Mr. Struve has only made matters worse by “giving offence” to revolutionaries (without naming them concretely), not only with the “anonymous” charge of ignorance (it is not known against whom it is levelled), but also with the assumption that they can be made to swallow the pill of an accusation of ignorance if only it is gilded with recognition of their “moral courage.”

For my part, I shall merely remark that tastes differ. Many liberals consider it the height of tact and wisdom to present the revolutionaries with testimonials to their courage, at the same time treating their programme as mere phrase-mongering, as a sign of an inadequate education, without even analysing the substance of their views. To our way of thinking, this is neither tact nor wisdom, but a piece of discreditable evasion. It is a matter of taste. The Russian Thiers, of course, appreciate the genteel drawing-room parlance, the irreproachably parliamentarian opportunist phrase-mongering of the real Thiers.

To proceed. I, if you please, “pretended not to understand that the formula ’an Authoritative all-Russian Zemstvo’ signifies the demand for a constitution,” and my arguments on this score “confirm once more [so Mr. Struve   thinks I the widespread occurrence of real revolutionary phrase-mongering, and malevolently biased phrase-mongering at that, in our literature issued abroad [this disgusting literary style is particularly rife in the columns of Iskra and Zarya I," p. xii of the second edition of the “Memorandum.” Well, as to being malevolently biased, it is difficult for us to dispute this point with Mr. Struve: what to him is a reproach we consider a compliment. What the liberals and many radicals call bias is actually unshakable firmness of conviction, while sharp criticism of erroneous views is termed “malevolent” by them. There is nothing to be done about it. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! I have been and shall continue to be “malevolently biased” against Messrs. the Struves. Then there is the other charge—on a matter of fact. Did I pretend not to understand or did I actually fail to understand, and was it impossible to understand? That is the question.

I maintained that the formula “Rights, and an Authoritative Zemstvo” means unseemly playing up to the political prejudices of the broad mass of Russian liberals, that this is “not a banner that can serve to distinguish enemies from allies” (take note of this!), but “a rag which can only help to attract the most unreliable characters to the movement” (p. 95 in No. 2-3 of Zarya).[See present edition, Vol. 5.—Ed.] Let me ask all and sundry: where is there any “pretence” on my part here?? I frankly state my opinion that this is not a banner but a rag, and I get the answer: you are pretending not to understand! This is indeed nothing but a new attempt to avoid an analysis of the question in essence, the question whether the “formula” is best fit to be a banner or a rag!

Nor is that all. Thanks to the kind assistance of Mr. S.S., I am now able to adduce facts to prove something much more important. I can prove that there was “unseemly playing up” on the part of Mr. Struve, not only in the sense of philistine doctrinairism intended to move the government with its modesty. not only in the sense of an irrational desire to unite the “liberals” around a minimum, but also in the sense of open and direct “playing up” to supporters of the autocracy who are well known as such to Mr. Struve. Mr. S.S. exposes Mr. Struve mercilessly and   irretrievably by saying that the “obscure and ambiguous [mark that!] Slavophil slogan of the ’Zemsky Sobor’”[1] is being advanced to suit the purposes of the “unnatural alliance” between the liberal constitutionalists and the liberal advocates of an ideal autocracy. Mr. S. S. says that this is no more and no less than “political juggling”!! And Mr. Struve acknowledges receipt ... by terming the slogan of a Zemsky Sobor “vague and valuable by very reason of its vagueness [italics ours!] and at the same time dangerous.”

Pretty good, isn’t it? When a Social-Democrat called an even more ambiguous slogan (an Authoritative Zemstvo) unseemly playing up, Mr. Struve donned the mantle of injured innocence and spoke in mincing accents about a pretended failure to understand. But when a liberal, Mr. S. S., repeated the very same thing, Mr. Struve made grateful obeisance and acknowledged receipt! By reason of its very vagueness, a vague slogan was of value to Mr. Struve, who is not embarrassed in the least to admit that be is prepared to launch dangerous slogans as well, depending on the way the wind blows. If Mr. Shipov appears to be strong and influential, then the editor of this liberal newspaper will speak about an Authoritative Zemstvo. If Mr. S.S. appears to be strong and influential, then the editor of this liberal newspaper will speak about a constitution and universal suffrage! Not a bad picture of the political practices and political ethics in the liberal camp.... Mr. Struve forgets only to consider what value his statements will have after this magnificent metamorphosis: in January 1901 Mr. Struve demanded “Rights, and an Authoritative Zemstvo”; in December 1902 Mr. Struve declared that it was a “pretence” not to understand that this was a demand for a constitution; in February 1903 Mr. Struve stated that in essence he had never questioned the justice of universal suffrage and that the vague slogan of a Zemsky Sobor was valuable just because it was vague. The question arises: what right now has any person active in politics, any Russian citizen, to assert that tomorrow Mr. Struve will not launch a new slogan “valuable by very reason of its vagueness”??

Let us pass to the last point of Mr. Struve’s reply. “Is it not revolutionary phrase-mongering,” he asks, “or abso   lutely lifeless doctrinairism for Mr. T.P.[2] to argue that the Zemstvo is an instrument for strengthening the autocracy?” Mr. Struve sees in this an assimilation of the ideas of the Slavophils, agreement with Goremykin,[3] and the Herculean pillars of a lifeless doctrine. Mr. Struve is absolutely incapable of understanding the revolutionary attitude towards half-hearted reforms undertaken for the purpose of avoiding a revolution. To Mr. Struve every reference to the double game played by the reformers from above appears to be Slavophilism and reaction, just as all the European Yves Guyots declare the socialist criticism of private property to be reactionary! It is, of course, not surprising that once Mr. Struve has become a reformer, he has lost the ability to understand the dual nature of reforms and their significance as an instrument to strengthen the domination of the rulers, strengthen it at the price of granting reforms. But ... there was a time when Mr. Struve understood this amazingly cunning manoeuvre. That was long ago, when he was “a bit of a Marxist,” and when we fought together against the Narodniks in the columns of the now defunct Novoye Slovo.[4] In the July 1897 issue of this periodical, Mr. Struve wrote about N.Y. Vodovozov: “I remember a conversation we had in the street in 1890—I had just returned from a summer trip through Germany, full of new and strong impressions—a conversation on Wilhelm II’s social policy and plans of reform. Vodovozov attached importance to them and did not agree with me, to whom the question of the significance of the fact and idea of the so-called ’social monarchy’ was at that time (and so much the more so at present) decided once and for all in the negative. Vodovozov viewed the idea of social reform in the abstract, divorced from the real social forces that create it. That is why he considered Catholic socialism in the main a peculiar ideological movement in favour of social reform and not a specific. form of preventative reaction to the growing working-class movement on the part of the European bourgeoisie, and partly also of the remnants of European feudalism....” So you see: in the distant past, at the time of his youthful infatuations, Mr. Struve understood that reforms may be a preventative reaction, i.e., a measure to prevent the ruling classes   from falling, and directed against the revolutionary class, even though it does improve the condition of this class. I put it to the reader: who, then, is right? Was it “revolutionary phrase-mongering” I indulged in when I exposed the reformist one-sidedness of Mr. Struve’s attitude towards a reform such as the Zemstvo, or has Mr. Struve become wiser and abandoned “once and for all” the position of a revolutionary which he at one time defended (allegedly once and for all)? Have I become a champion of the Slavophils and Goremykin, or did the “strong impressions” of his trip through socialist Germany last Mr. Struve only a few years??

Yes, indeed, there are different conceptions of the strength of impressions, of the force of convictions, of the significance of convictions, of the compatibility of political ethics and political conviction with the launching of slogans which are valuable by reason of their vagueness....

In conclusion I cannot but remark on several statements of Mr. Struve’s that considerably “mar” the pleasant impression produced by his turn to the Left. Although he has advanced only one democratic demand (universal suffrage) Mr. Struve is already making haste to speak of a “liberal democratic party.” Is this not somewhat premature? Would it not be better first to definitely indicate all the democratic transformations which the Party demands unconditionally not only in the agrarian and workers’ programme but in the political programme as well, and only then to paste on a label, only then claim promotion from the “rank” of liberal to the rank of liberal democrat? After all, universal suffrage is a minimum of democracy that has been recognised even by some conservatives who (in Europe) have become reconciled to elections in general. But for some reason or other, Mr. Struve does not go beyond this mini mum either in No. 17 or in No. 18. Further, we shall note, in passing, Mr. Struve’s curious remark that the problem of socialism must be put entirely aside by the liberal democratic party “primarily because socialism is actually only a problem so far.” Is it not, most esteemed Mr. Struve, because the “liberal democratic” elements of Russian society express the interests of the classes that oppose the socialist demands of the proletariat? I repeat, this is said merely   in passing, in order to note the new methods used by the liberals to “negate” socialism. Actually, of course, Mr. Struve is right when he says that the liberal “democratic” party is not a socialist party and that it would not be fitting for it to pose as such.

As to the tactics of the new party, Mr. Struve could not have expressed himself more vaguely. That is very regrettable. And it is even more regrettable that he repeats again and again, and stresses the necessity of “two in-one” tactics in the sense of a “skilful, flexible and indissoluble combination” of legal and illegal methods of action. At best, this is an evasion of the urgent questions connected with the methods of illegal activities. And this is a pressing question because it is only systematic illegal activity that actually determines the physiognomy of the party. At worst, this is a repetition of the wriggling used by Mr. Struve when he wrote about “Rights, and an Authoritative Zemstvo,” and not about an openly and definitely constitutional and “democratic” party. Every illegal party “combines” illegal with legal activities in the sense that it relies on the masses, who do not participate directly in illegal activities, that it supports legal pro tests, utilises legal opportunities for propaganda, organisation, etc. This is generally known, and it is not this that is meant when the tactics of an illegal party are discussed. The point in question is the irrevocable recognition of struggle by this party, elaboration of methods of struggle, the duty of party members not to limit themselves to legal protests, but to subordinate everything without exception to the interests and demands of the revolutionary struggle. If there is no systematic illegal activity and revolutionary struggle, then there is no party that can really be constitutional (let alone democratic). And no greater harm can be done to the cause of the struggle than by confusing revolutionary work, which is based on the broad masses, makes use of mass organisations, and facilitates the political training of legal party functionaries, with work restricted within legal bounds.


[1] The Slavophils were a social trend in Russia in the middle of the nineteenth century, at a time when the serf-owning system was in the throes of a crisis. The Slavophils held the “theory” that Russia had her own and peculiar path of historical development, one that derived from the village commune system and Russian Orthodoxy, which, they claimed, were inherent in the Slays. Since they held that Russia’s historical development excluded possibility of revolution, the Slavophils were strongly opposed to the revolutionary movement, not only in Russia, but in the West as well. They stood for preservation of the autocracy, but thought that the monarch should give due consideration to public opinion, and pro posed the calling of a Zemsky Sobor (Duma) composed of representatives of all sections of society. They were, however, against a constitution or any limiting of the autocracy. In the peasant question the Slavophils stood for emancipation of the peasants as individuals, and for the village communes being allotted land through its redemption from landlords. Among leading Slavophils were A. Khomyakov, the Kireyevsky brothers, the Aksakov brothers, and Y. Samarin.

[2] T.P.—the pseudonym under which Lenin published his article, “Persecutors o!the Zemstvo and the Hannibals of Liberalism,” in Zarya, No. 2-3, in 1901. (See present edition, Vol. 5.)

[3] Goremykin—tsarist statesman and a typical representative of the reactionary bureaucracy. A rabid monarchist, he was Minister of the Interior in 1896-99, during which period he conducted a reactionary policy and savagely persecuted the working-class movement.

[4] Novoye Slovo (New Word)—a monthly scientific, literary, and political magazine, published in St. Petersburg by the liberal Narodniks from 1894, and by the “legal Marxists” from the spring of 1897. Lenin published two articles in Novoye Slovo: “A Characterisation of Economic Romanticism” and “About a Certain News paper Article” (see present edition, Vol. 2, pp. 129-265 and 316-22). In December 1897, the magazine was suppressed by the tsarist government.

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