V. I.   Lenin

“Revolutionaries” in Kid Gloves

Published: Proletary, No. 5, June 26 (13), 1905. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 8, pages 526-530.
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.README

Friday, June 23 (10)

The press abroad has begun to comment on the audience granted to the Zemstvo deputation by the tsar. As usual, the bourgeois press fawns, waxing sentimental over the tsar’s amenability and the reasonableness of the Zemstvo representatives, though certain doubts creep in as to the value of promises given in so vague a form. The socialist papers bluntly and definitely declare that the audience was a farce.

The autocracy is playing for time and leading the liberal bourgeoisie by the nose. On the one hand, dictatorial powers for Trepov; on the other, meaningless and worthless promises to the liberals in order to cause further vacillation in their all-too vacillating ranks. The tactics of the autocratic government are not so stupid. The liberals are playing at loyalty, moderation, and modesty. Why should not the government take advantage of their stupidity and cowardice? “A La guerre comme à la guerre.” There are no wars without military stratagems. And when the “enemy” (the liberal bourgeoisie) is something between a foe and a gullible friend, why not lead him by the nose?

M. Gaston Leroux, referred to in our leading article, reports the following details concerning the audience, details which, though not very authentic, are at any rate characteristic and significant. “Baron Fredericks, Minister of the Court, told the delegates that, with the best of intentions, it was difficult for him to obtain an imperial audience for Mr. Petrunkevich, who was said to have revolutionary connections. It was pointed out to the Minister that the Austrian Emperor had had among his Ministers M. Andrássy,   who had at one time been sentenced. This argument removed the last difficulty and the delegates ... were conducted to the Court.”

The argument is a good one. The West-European bourgeoisie did fight in earnest at first; at times it was even republican,its leaders were “sentenced”—sentenced for treason, i.e., not only for revolutionary connections, but for actual revolutionary deeds. Then, many years, sometimes decades, later these bourgeois accommodated themselves to the most wretched of skimpy constitutions without a republic and without even universal suffrage or real political freedom. The liberal bourgeois became fully reconciled to “the Throne” and the police; they rose to power themselves and brutally suppressed, as they do to this day, every aspiration of the workers towards freedom and social reforms.

Russia’s liberal bourgeoisie wants to combine pleasure with profit. To be regarded as a man with “revolutionary connections” is pleasant; to be capable of occupying a ministerial seat under the Emperor Nicholas the Bloody is profitable. The bourgeois liberals of Russia have no desire whatever to risk “being sentenced” for treason. They prefer the direct leap into the stage in which ex-revolutionaries like Andrássy became Ministers on the side of law and order. In 1848 Count Andrássy had taken such an energetic part in the revolutionary movement that, after the suppression of the revolution, he was sentenced to death and hanged in effigy. He lived as an émigré in France and in England, and he did not return to Hungary until after the amnesty of 1857. That is when his “ministerial” career began. The Russian liberals do not want a revolution; they dread it; they want to be accepted as ex-revolutionaries straight away, without ever having been revolutionaries! They want to leap from 1847 into 1857 at a single bound! They want to make a deal with the tsar straight away for a constitution like those operating in Europe during the violent reaction which followed the defeat of the Revolution of 1848.

Indeed, the example of Andrássy was an ideal choice. As the sun is reflected in a tiny drop of water, so the parallel between the bourgeois democracy of Europe, once revolutionary and republican, and the monarchist constitutionalist (even   after January 9, 1905) bourgeois “democracy” of Russia is reflected in the comparison between Andráissy and Petrunkevich. First the European bourgeois fought on the barricades for the republic, then they lived in exile, and they ended up by turning traitors to the cause of liberty, betraying the revolution, and taking service with the constitutional monarchs. The Russian bourgeois want to “learn from history” and “reduce the stages of development”: they want to betray the revolution straight away, to turn traitor to liberty straight away. In private conversation they repeat the words of Christ to Judas: “That thou doest, do quickly.”

“They were ushered into another hall, ... where the tsar was to receive them,” continues M. Gaston Leroux, “when it was suddenly discovered that the revolutionary Petrunkevich had no kid gloves. Colonel of the Life Guards Putyatin instantly took off his own and hastily handed them to the revolutionary.”

The audience began. Prince Trubetskoi delivered his speech. As reported by M. Gaston Leroux, he began by stating how grateful they were to the tsar for having “deigned to receive us, thereby proving your confidence in us.... We are simply people of peace and order,” declared Prince Trubetskoi (on behalf of the whole “Constitutional-Democratic”, or Osvobozhdeniye, Party), adding that “the tsar had been deceived” by his councillors. The most “daring” passage in his speech was the one in which he declared that an assembly of representatives based on social-estates, as proposed by Bulygin, was “inadmissible” ... why, you think? ... because “You, Your Majesty, are not the Tsar of the nobles, of the merchants and the peasants; you are the Tsar of All the Russias, and the representation must be of the entire people without exception”. As to the resolution of the Zemstvo Conference, which we publish in our leading article,[1] of that not a whisper, as was only to be expected.

Mr. Fyodorov dealt in his speech with the financial side of the “revolution in kid gloves”. The national budget would increase after the war by an amount ranging from three hundred to four hundred millions; “an enormous exertion for progress and civilisation” will be necessary, and this   requires the “independence of society” and the “call to life of all men of talent among the people” (chosen under the control of Trepov?).

The tsar’s answer we know. “His speech over,” telegraphs M. Gaston Leroux, “the tsar conversed amiably with each member of the deputation. He went so far as to ask the famous revolutionary [Petrunkevich] if he was a Marshal of the Nobility. The latter replying in the negative, the tsar expressed the hope that the day would come when he would attain that rank and passed on to another delegate. When he had taken leave of the company, the delegates were ushered into a back room in the palace, where they were served a lunch, which, they estimated, might cost 75 kopeks. In any case, the delegates were pleased with the outcome. Elf not at once a ministerial portfolio, at least the post of Marshal of the Nobility had been promised! Even Andráissy must have started as a Marshal of the Nobility, or some thing of the sort! I They had begun dispatching innumerable telegrams [to the effect that confidence between the’ tsar and the “people” had now been restored? I ... when they received the official text of the tsar’s reply. Great was their stupefaction when they failed to find in it the only important sentence that seemed to promise at least something. The words: ’Our imperial will to convene representatives of the people is unshakable’ was changed to the simple affirmation: ’Our imperial will is unshakable’. The delegates immediately returned this official text as unacceptable. Today, not without impatience, they looked forward to receiving a text that would contain the words they all had heard. One of the deputies told me tonight [the telegram of M. Leroux is dated June 20 (7)] with reference to this fantastic manipulation of sentences: This is no longer an autocracy, it’s hocus-pocus."

Well put, or well invented, if M. Leroux invented it all. There is hocus-pocus in it even if the promise to convene the popular representatives had been included in the official text of the speech. Kid gloves, and a flunkey’s at that, are the true emblem of the political act performed by the Petrunkeviches and the Rodichevs. They started with hocus-pocus themselves, not only by accepting the terms of the audience, but by hiding their resolution in their pockets, by concealing   their real wishes, and by most improperly misrepresenting the tsar as a victim of deception, etc., etc. They have no right to complain now that their trickery was answered with trickery. For a general promise to convene representatives of the people means absolutely nothing and yields absolutely nothing while leaving a clear field for a Bulygin and Trepov. “constitution”, and ample opportunity for procrastination of every description. Everything remains as it was, except that the liberals, fooled like schoolboys, and disgraced by the promise of a Marshal’s rank, have done a service to the autocracy by dispatching telegrams hailing the return of “confidence” and making reports about the audience like Mr. Nikitin’s in the St. Petersburg municipal council.

We should not like to assume the role of Cassandra.[2] We should not like to prophesy a ludicrous and ignoble end for the Russian revolution. But it is our duty to tell the workers bluntly and openly, to tell the whole people that things are heading that way. The Constitutional would-be Democratic Party and all these gentlemen of Osvobozhdeniye are bringing matters to such an end and to no other. Do not be deceived by the claptrap of the radical-Osvobozhdeniye speeches and the Zemstvo resolutions. This is the gaudily painted stage set for the “people”, while a brisk trade is going on behind the scenes. The liberal bourgeoisie knows how to cast parts: the radical spellbinders are sent to speechify at banquets and meetings, while the hard-boiled businessmen are sent to “prepare the ground” among the Court clique. And since the power remains perfectly intact and unlimited in the hands of the autocracy, the inevitable result of such a course of development will be a “constitution” a hundred times more like the Bulygin scheme than that of Osvobozhdeniye.

The destiny of the Russian revolution now rests with the proletariat. Only the proletariat can put a stop to this haggling. Only the proletariat can, by a new heroic effort, rouse the masses, split the wavering army, win over the peasantry, and, arms in hand, gain freedom for the whole people by ruthlessly crushing the enemies of liberty and hurling aside its self-seeking and wavering bourgeois bell-ringers.


[1] See pp. 520 -21 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] Cassandra—daughter of Priam, legendary King of Troy. Cassandra, according to ancient Greek legend, possessed the gift of prophecy and prophesied the downfall of Troy.

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