V. I.   Lenin

The First Steps of Bourgeois Betrayal

Published: Proletary, No. 5, June 26 (13), 19O5. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 8, pages 519-525.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Isidor Lasker
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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.
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Geneva, Wednesday, June 21(8)

Yesterday the telegraph brought the news that Nicholas II had received a Zemstvo deputation last Monday. Responding to speeches by Prince Sergei Trubetskoi and Mr. Fyodrov, the tsar emphatically confirmed his promise to convene an assembly of people’s representatives.

To appreciate fully the significance of this “event” we must first of all reconstruct certain facts that were reported in the foreign press.

On May 24 and 25, old style, about 300 Zemstvo and municipal representatives held three meetings in Moscow. In the lithographed copies we have received from Russia of their petition to the tsar and of a resolution adopted by them the number of attending delegates is not indicated; mention is made only of City Mayors and Marshals of the Nobility, as well as Zemstvo and municipal councillors, having attended the Conference. The representatives of landlordism and urban capital discussed the political fortunes of Russia. According to the foreign correspondents, the debate was very heated. The Shipov party, with its moderate policy and its extensive Court connections, enjoyed great influence. The most radical were the provincial delegates, the most moderate those from St. Petersburg, while the “Centre” was formed by the Moscow delegates. Every word of the petition was debated, St. Petersburg finally joining in the vote for it. The resulting document was a patriotic and loyal petition. “Actuated solely by ardent love of country”, the respectable bourgeois gentlemen sink “all discord   and all differences that divide them” and appeal to the tsar. They point to “the grave danger to Russia and to the Throne itself”, which emanates not so much from abroad as from “internal strife”. (True, “Russia” comes before the “Throne”, but our patriots appealed to the Throne first and only threatened—privately and à la sourdine—to appeal to the people.) As usual, the petition is full of official eyewash: everything is blamed on the tsar’s councillors, on the distortion of his designs and prescriptions which has led to a tightening of the· police regime and prevented the “voice of truth” from ascending to the Throne, etc. They conclude with the request, “before it is too late”, that “representatives of the people elected for this purpose by all subjects on an equal basis, without any distinction, be convoked without delay”. The representatives of the people are to decide the question of war or peace “in concert” with the tsar and to establish [also in concert with the tsar] an improved system of government”. Thus, the petition contains no explicit demand for universal, direct, and equal suffrage by secret ballot, which was alleged to have been adopted by the “Constitutional-Democratic” Party (all reference to direct suffrage and secret ballot is omitted and, of course, not by accident); and no guarantees whatever are demanded to ensure that the elections will be free. The authors of the petition state pathetically: “Oppression of the individual and of society, denial of free speech, and all manner of tyranny are multiplying and growing”; but no measures against them are suggested. Tyranny is growing “in concert” with the tsar; so let the political system be “improved” in concert with the tsar.... The representatives of the bourgeoisie are holding fast to the theory of an “agreement”, not, of course, on the part of the people, but on the part of the bourgeoisie, and the people’s oppressors.

The Conference elected a delegation to present the petition to the tsar. It consisted of Messrs. Heyden, Golovin, Petrunkevich, G. and N. Lvov, Pyotr and Pavel Dolgorukov, Kovalevsky, Novosiltsev, Rodichev, Shakhovskoi, and Sergei Trubetskoi. Later, at the audience given by Nicholas II, they were joined by Messrs. Korf, Nikitin, and Fyodorov, from St. Petersburg.

The Conference then adopted the following resolution,   which was not reported in the foreign press but is reproduced in the Russian leaflet:

“This Conference of united groups of Zemstvo and municipal representatives, imbued, notwithstanding differences of opinion on certain political questions, with the common conviction that the root cause of the present difficult position of Russia, domestic and foreign, is the still existing system of government by decree, which denies individual and public freedom,represses the self-realisation and independent activity of the people, debars the population from participation in the life of the state, and breeds unrestrained and constantly increasing lawlessness on the part of an irresponsible administration; that this system of government, which for many years has been a source of violence, falsehood, and corruption in our internal life, has now led to the dire threat of grave external danger, by having involved the nation in a disastrous war, in the course of which it has engendered and sustained internecine strife, and brought the country to a series of defeats culminating in a disaster to its naval forces unprecedented in Russian history;—and, firm in the conviction that the further existence of this regime menaces, not only the internal peace, the order, and the welfare of the people, but also the stability of the Throne and the territorial integrity and external security of Russia, this Conference declares that the salvation of the country makes it imperatively necessary:

“1. That freely elected popular representatives be immediately convoked to decide, jointly with the Sovereign, the question of war and peace and of establishing a constitutional state system;

“2. That all laws, institutions, decisions, and orders which contravene the principles of personal liberty, freedom of speech, of the press, and of association and assembly, be immediately nullified, and that a political amnesty be proclaimed;

“3. That the administrative personnel be immediately renewed through the placement of the central administration in the charge of persons who are sincerely devoted to the cause of reforming the state and who enjoy the confidence of the community.”

We do not know in what relation this resolution stands to the petition and to the mandates of the delegation, whether the delegation undertook to set forth the substance of the resolution or to present it together with the petition. Perhaps the petition is the official document for the “Throne”, and the resolution the unofficial document for the “people”?

As regards the character of the debates at the Conference, the correspondent of the French paper Le Matin,[1] M. Gaston Leroux, reports that the most “progressive-minded” of the delegates, those from the provincial Zemstvos, stood for a two-stage electoral system, fearing that under   direct elections they would be overwhelmed by the “towns” (evidently they feared that under direct elections the privileges of the landlords over the peasants would not be fully guaranteed). The correspondent of the Frankfurter Zeitung wrote:

“The Russian Zemstvo as a political party consists of three groupings: the liberal Zemstvo majority (with Count Heyden as its leader), the moderately liberal nationalist Slavophil Zemstvo minority headed by Mr. Shipov, and the group of radical Zemstvo constitutionalists. It is characteristic that at the election of delegates ... it was the ’feudal’ candidates that got through. The moderates wanted to be worthily represented before the tsar by members of respected old families. And the radicals, who entertained no illusions as to the outcome of the petition, wanted the representatives of the old families to see with their own eyes that the government would not yield an inch voluntarily.”

The conveniences of that nebulous organisation of the “Constitutional-Democratic” (read: monarchist) party eulogised by Mr. Struve were not long in revealing themselves in practice. A strong, firmly knit party organisation will not lend itself to dickering and bargaining, to dodges and subterfuges. Let the “party” include both the Osvobozhdeniye League (perhaps this is the “group of radicals” mentioned by the correspondent of the Frankfurter Zeitung) and the “Zemstvo group” (i.e., the followers of Heyden and of Shipov, from whom Mr. Struve is now officially seeking to dissociate himself). But the Zemstvo group includes the Heydenists, the Shipovists, and ... the “radicals”. Work this out if you can! But they are all agreed, moved as they were by ardent love for their country and for the privileges of the bourgeois, on the theory of agreement, with which we have often dealt in Proletary, and which is clearly in evidence both in the “petition” and in the “resolution”.

The resolution was probably designed to satisfy the “ideal” demands of the radicals, while the petition, as interpreted by the “moderate” delegates, was to serve the purpose of a material deal with tsarism. Such things as the numerical representation of the groupings at the Conference, the powers of the delegates, the terms of the deal,   and the further intentions of the Zemstvo men were very care fully concealed from the uninitiated plebs. The “people”, in whose name the bourgeois gentlemen are bargaining with tsarism, have no need to know the high politics of the “Constitutional-Democratic Party”! The bourgeois gentlemen will converse with the tsar about the suppression of free speech and the voice of truth, about people’s representatives, about a Russia that has “rallied round the one standard of the people”, etc.; but for this people to know the whole truth about the policy pursued by the liberal and Osvobozhdeniye hagglers is quite superfluous.... Indeed,not without reason did Mr. Struve, in 0svobozhdeniye , recently reproach the “extreme parties” (the Social-Democrats in particular) for their immoderate leaning to narrow, conspiratorial, Jacobin “secrecy”. We Social-Democrats resort to secrecy from the tsar and his blood hounds, while taking pains that the people should know every thing about our Party, about the shades of opinion within it, about the development of its programme and policy, that they should even know what this or that Party congress delegate said at the congress in question. The enlightened bourgeois of the Osvobozhdeniye fraternity surround themselves with secrecy... from the people, who know nothing definite about the much-talked-of “Constitutional-Democratic” Party; but they make up for this by taking the tsar and his sleuths into their confidence. Who can say they are not democrats?

What secrets the Zemstvo delegates unbosomed to the Court cabal, who refused to admit them to the tsar, we do not know. But the confidences and talks continued for quite a while. The foreign press was agog for news about the delegates’ every step in the game of “high politics”. St. Petersburg, June 9 (May 27): The Zemstvo deputation will in the first place see Mr. Bulygin, Minister of the Interior, in order to lodge a complaint against Trepov. June 10 (May 28): Bulygin told the deputation that it would not be received by the tsar and advised it to leave St. Petersburg. June 12 (May 30): It is thought probable that the tsar will receive the deputation. June 15 (2): A special telegram from M. Gaston Leroux to Le Matin: “The Zemstvo delegates have accepted the conditions set by the Minister of the Court for an audience with the Emperor. Thereupon Baron Fredericks   went this evening to Tsarskoye Selo to inquire of the tsar whether he had decided to receive the deputation.”

Do you hear this, Russian workers and peasants? This is how they behave, these “liberationists” and “democrats”, these foes of conspiracy, these abhorrers of secrecy! They con spire with the Minister of the Court of His Policemanic Majesty, hugger-mugger with the spies against the people. They pose as the representatives of the “people”, while accepting conditions framed by spies on how to speak with a tsar on the needs of the “people”!

This is how they act, the rich, independent, enlightened, and liberal-minded patriots who are “actuated by ardent love of country”. How unlike the rough unschooled working-class rabble, dependent on every clerk, which tries to push its way straight to the tsar without any concealment, led by an audacious priest, without having even talked with the influential spies about the conditions of an interview with the tsar. How can one think of a republic, or even of direct elections or of a unicameral system with such politically uneducated masses? The politically educated know the ropes and understand that one should first make a backstairs call on the spies—perhaps even consult them as to the substance and style of the petition to the tsar—after which the “voice of truth” will surely “ascend to the Throne”.

What sort of bargain the “representatives [save the mark!] of the people” struck with the tsar’s spies we do not know. We know from the telegrams that at the reception of the delegation Prince Trubetskoi delivered “a lengthy speech” in which, for half an hour, he described to the tsar the plight of Russia and the conditions that had compelled the Zemstvo men to appeal directly to the tsar (and not through his spies?). The speech made a profound impression upon the tsar. Mr. Fyodorov spoke on behalf of the representatives of St. Petersburg. The tsar responded with a long speech. He expressed regret at the enormous sacrifices caused by the war, lamented the latest defeat at sea, and concluded with the words: “I thank you, gentlemen, for the sentiments you have expressed [fine sentiments they must have been, considering that the “democrat” Trubetskoi had consulted the spies on how to express them!]. I believe in your desire to work with me [the tsar believes   the liberal bourgeoisie; the liberal bourgeoisie believes the tsar; claw me—claw thee] in setting up a new system of government built on new principles. My desire to convene a popular assembly [When? Are the representatives to be elected? If so, in what manner and by whom? This is not known. Evidently Mr. Trubetskoi concealed from his beloved sovereign the “resolution” of the conference; the spies must have advised him not to broach this subject to the tsar!] is unshakable. It is daily in my thoughts. My will shall be carried out. You may announce this to the population of town and countryside this very day. You will help me in this new work. The popular assembly will restore unity between Russia and its emperor [between the Trubetskois and Fyodorovs and the emperor?]. It will lay the foundation of the system which will repose on Russian national principles." The delegates—says the official telegram—came away from the audience tremendously impressed. The tsar seemed pleased, too....

This does look like the real truth! The tsar is pleased, the liberal bourgeois are pleased. They are ready to conclude a lasting peace with one another. The autocracy and the police (the true Russian national principles) are pleased. The money-bags as well are pleased (from now on their advice will be sought constantly and regularly).

But will the workers and peasants be pleased—they whose interests the bourgeois traitors are bartering away?


[1] Le Matin—French bourgeois daily newspaper, founded in 1884.

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