V. I.   Lenin

Friends Meet

Published: Proletary, No. 18, September 26 (13), 1905. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 9, pages 253-261.
Translated: The Late Abraham Fineberg and Julius Katzer
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). 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

During the last few days foreign papers, which are very carefully following the development of the political crisis in Russia, have published a number of interesting reports on the activities of the Zemstvos and the Osvobozhdeniye League. Here is what they say:

"After a two-hour discussion the St. Petersburg Conference of Marshals of the Nobility arrived at complete agreement with the Minister of the Interior concerning the elections” to the State Duma (Vossische Zeitung, [2] September 16). “Reports from all the gubernias and cities of Russia show that most electors are utterly indifferent to the political rights granted them” (ibid.). Golovin (Chairman of the Moscow Gubernia Zemstvo Board) is conducting negotiations with Durnovo (Governor General of Moscow) concerning permission to hold a Zemstvo Congress. Durnovo told Golovin that he was in full sympathy with the Zemstvos, but that he had been ordered to exert every effort to prevent the Congress. Golovin made reference to the Congress of Professors. Durnovo replied that “this is an altogether different matter, since the students had to be persuaded to resume their studies at all events” (Frankfurter Zeitung, September 17). “The Zemstvo Congress has been authorised to meet in Moscow on the 25th inst. in order to discuss the electoral programme, provided it keeps. strictly to that subject.” (The Times, September 18, cable gram from St. Petersburg.) “M. Golovin today visited the Governor General with reference to the forthcoming Zemstvo Congress. His Excellency stated that the Congress would be permitted to assemble, but that ·the programme must be confined to three points—first, the participation of the   Zemstvos and towns in the elections to the State Duma; secondly, the organisation. of the electoral campaign; and, thirdly, the participation of the Zemstvos and towns in the work of assisting in relief work in famine-stricken districts.” (Ibid., cablegram from Moscow.)

Friends have met and come to terms. An agreement has been reached between Golovin (the leader of the Zemstvo party) and Durnovo. Only infants could fail to see that the agreement is based on mutual concessions, on the principle of do ut des (I give you that you may give me). What the autocracy has conceded is clear: it has permitted the Congress. What has been conceded by the Zemstvo party (or is it the Osvobozhdeniye Party? God alone knows! And is it worth while finding out?) no one mentions. The bourgeoisie has every reason to conceal its negotiations with the autocracy. But even if we do not know the details, the particulars, we are fully aware of the gist of the concessions made by the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie has promised the autocracy to moderate its revolutionary fervour which consisted in Petrunkevich having been regarded in Court circles as a former revolutionary.... The bourgeoisie has promised a discount in return for a discount. We do not know how big this discount is. However, we do know that the “bar gaining price” asked for by the bourgeoisie was twofold: for the people—a monarchist constitution with two chambers; for the tsar—the convocation of people’s representatives, nothing more (since the celebrated Zemstvo delegation did not dare to ask Nicholas II for more). It is on this double bargaining price that the bourgeoisie has now promised the autocracy a discount. The bourgeoisie has promised to be dutiful, loyal, and law-abiding.[1]

Friends met and came to an agreement.

About the same time, other friends began to meet and come to terms. The St. Petersburg correspondent of the   Frankfurter Zeitung, a Bourse paper (September 15), reports that a secret congress of the Osvobozhdeniye League has taken place, evidently in Moscow. “At this meeting it was decided that the Osvobozhdeniye League should be turned into a democratic-constitutional party; A motion to this effect was tabled by Zemstvo members belonging to the Osvobozhdeniye League, and was carried unanimously by the Congress” (or was it a conference?). “Thereupon forty members of the League were elected to draft and edit the party programme. This commission is to start work soon.” The question of the State Duma was discussed. After a lively debate it was decided to take part in the elections “on condition, however, that party members elected participate in the State Duma not in order to concern themselves with current affairs, but for the purpose of continuing the struggle within the Duma itself”. In the course of the debates it was pointed out that a widespread (or far-reaching— weitgehender) boycott is impossible, and only a boycott of that nature would have any sense. (Is it possible, gentlemen, that no one cried out at your meeting: “Don’t say ‘I cannot’, say ‘I don’t want to!’”?—Note by the Editors of Proletary.) However, the meeting holds that the State Duma is a good arena for the propaganda of democratic ideas. “A true friend of the people,” according to the minutes of the meeting, “a friend of freedom, will enter the State Duma only for the purpose of fighting for a constitutional state.” (Remember S. S. of Osvobozhdeniye, who explained to all and sundry that for the radical intelligentsia extension of suffrage is the focal point, whereas for the Zemstvos, for the landlords, and capitalists, it is the extension of the rights of the State Duma.—Editors of Proletary.) “At the same time the meeting pointed out that the democratic members of the Duma should bear in mind that in this struggle there must be a complete break with the existing government” (the italics are in the original) “and such a break should not be feared. These decisions of the meeting will, of course, be printed and circulated.” (The Editors of Proletary have so far obtained neither this leaflet nor any information about it from Russia.) “In view of the far-reaching influence of the Osvobozhdentsi, as members of the Osvobozhdeniye League call themselves, who count among their number representatives of   the most diverse strata of society and who are headed by Zemstvo leaders, their election campaign among circles of society closest to them and qualified to vote acquires great importance. There is no doubt that a strong nucleus of these Osvobozhdentsi will penetrate into the State Duma and constitute its Left wing, as soon as the State Duma turns into a body genuinely representative of the people. If these radicals succeed in winning the candidates of the moderate Zemstvos and the towns over to their side, a constituent assembly may eventually be proclaimed.

"The participation of Russian political parties in the elections is thus apparently a settled matter, for the Union of Unions has also finally declared itself in favour of participation. Only the Jewish Bund is campaigning against the Duma elections, and at big meetings held in various cities ... the workers in general have taken a categorical stand against the State Duma, from which they are excluded.”

That is how the correspondent of a German bourgeois newspaper writes the history of the Russian revolution. His reports, probably, contain errors of detail, but by and large they are undoubtedly close to the truth—of course, so far as facts, not predictions, are concerned.

What is the real significance of the facts he describes?

The Russian bourgeoisie, as we have pointed out hundreds of times, is acting as intermediary between the tsar and the people, between the government and the revolution, in a desire to make use of the latter in order to secure power for itself in its own class interests. Therefore, until it attains power, it is bound to strive for “friendship” both with the tsar and with the revolution. And that is what it is doing. The dignitary Golovin is sent to strike up a friendship with Durnovo. An anonymous scribbler is sent to strike up a friendship with the “people”, with the revolution. In the first case friends met and came to terms. In the second case they hold out their hands, nod their heads in friendly fashion, promise to be true friends of the people, friends of liberty, swear to take part in the Duma only for the sake of the struggle and nothing but the struggle, avow that they will make a complete and final   break with the existing government, and hold out even the prospect of a constituent assembly being proclaimed. They act the radical, dance attendance on revolutionaries, and make up to them in order to win the title of friends of the people and of liberty; they are prepared to promise any thing—on the off-chance of someone swallowing the bait!

The bait has been swallowed. The new Iskra with Parvus at its head has done that. Friends have met and begun negotiations about an agreement. Cherevanin cries out (in Iskra, No. 108): “We must make the Osvobozhdeniye League members who are entering the Duma give us a revolutionary pledge.” “We agree, we quite agree,” is the reply. “We shall proclaim a constituent assembly.” Martov (in the Vienna Arbeiter Zeitung translated into Russian in Proletary, No. 15) seconds Cherevanin: “Pressure must be brought to bear so that only resolute advocates of free and democratic representation are elected.” “Of course, of course,” the Osvobozhdeniye League replies, “honest to God, we are most resolute people; we are out for a complete break with the existing government.” “We must remind them that they are in duty bound to express the interests of the people,” Parvus, our Ledru-Rollin[3] thunders. “They must be forced to express the interests of the people.”—“Most assuredly,” the Osvobozhdeniye League replies. “We even have it recorded in the minutes that we are true friends of the people, friends of liberty.” “Political parties must be formed,” Parvus demands. “Done,” the Osvobozhdeniye League replies. “We are already called the Constitutional-Democratic Party.” “A clear programme is needed,” Parvus persists. “Why, of course,” the Osvobozhdeniye League replies, “we have set forty men to write a programme, and are only too glad to do it ..." “An agreement on Social-Democratic support for the Osvobozhdeniye League must be concluded,” all the new-Iskra crowd wind up in chorus. The Osvobozhdeniye League is moved to tears. Golovin pays a call on Durnovo to tender his congratulations.

Which of them are the buffoons, and which the dupes? All the mistakes of Iskra’s tactics in the Duma question have now led up to a natural and inevitable finale. The disgraceful part played by Iskra in its war against the idea of an active boycott is now obvious to each and all. There   is no doubt now as to who benefited by Iskra’s tactics. The idea of an active boycott has been buried by the majority of the monarchist bourgeoisie. Iskra’s tactics will inevitably be buried by the majority of Russian Social-Democrats.

Parvus let his tongue run away with him to the extent of talking about a formal agreement with the Osvobozhdeniye League (the “democrats”), about joint political responsibility binding them and the Social-Democrats, and about Social-Democratic support for the Osvobozhdeniye League on the basis of precisely defined conditions and demands— even new-Iskrists will, probably, repudiate this absurd and disgraceful talk. Parvus, however, has simply given franker and blunter expression to the idea underlying the new-Iskra views. The formal support he proposes is merely the inevitable consequence of the moral support the new Iskra has all along been giving the monarchist bourgeoisie by condemning an active boycott of the Duma, by justifying and championing the idea of democrats entering the Duma, and by playing at parliamentarianism when no parliament whatever exists. It has been well said: we have no parliament as yet, but we have parliamentary cretinism galore.

The fundamental error of the new-Iskrists has come to the fore. They have constantly turned a blind eye to the theory of compromise, the political theory underlying the Osvobozhdeniye trend, and the truest and most profound expression of the Russian bourgeoisie’s class stand and class interests. They have kept harping on only one aspect of the matter—the conflicts between the bourgeoisie and the autocracy, with complete disregard of the other aspect— the compromise between the bourgeoisie and the autocracy, against the people, the proletariat, and the revolution. And yet it is precisely this second aspect that is coming more and more to the fore acquiring ever greater and more fundamental importance with each advance of the Russian revolution, each month of a situation which is so intolerable to bourgeois adherents of law and order.

The fundamental error of the new-Iskrists led them to a radically incorrect appraisal of the ways in which Social- Democracy should take advantage of the conflicts between   the bourgeoisie and the autocracy, and the ways of fanning the flames of these conflicts by our efforts. Yes, it is our absolute duty to fan the flames of these conflicts at all times, be it without a Duma, or prior to a Duma, or in the Duma itself, if it ever meets. But the new-Iskrists do not see where the proper means are to be found. Instead of encouraging the flames by breaking the windows and allowing fresh air—the workers’ uprisings—to rush in, they sweat at making toy bellows and fanning the revolutionary zeal of the Osvobozhdeniye people by presenting them with farcical demands and conditions.

Indeed, it is our duty to support the bourgeoisie whenever it acts in a revolutionary way. But with us this support has always consisted (remember the attitude of Zarya and the old Iskra towards Osvobozhdeniye), and, as far as revolutionary Social-Democrats are concerned, will always consist, first and foremost, in ruthlessly exposing and branding every false step of this “democratic”—save the mark! — bourgeoisie. If it is at all possible for us to exert influence on the democratism of the bourgeoisie, that influence will have effect only when all acts of treachery, all the bourgeoisie’s errors, its unfulfilled promises and fine words that are belied by events and deeds, are stigmatised on every occasion when a bourgeois democrat speaks to workers or politically conscious peasants. Since this bourgeoisie, which only yesterday was proclaiming from the house-tops that it would boycott the Duma, has today already basely retract ed its promises, changed its decisions, redrafted its resolutions, and come to an agreement with the Durnovos about a legal mode of action, we must withhold moral support of these liars and lackeys of the autocracy, prevent them from getting away with broken promises and making new ones to the workers (which will likewise be cast to the wind the moment the Duma becomes a legislative instead of a consultative body). No, we must brand them and impress upon the whole of the proletariat that fresh betrayals on the part of these bourgeois “democrats”, who reconcile the constitution with Trepov, and Social-Democracy with Osvobozhdeniye politics, are inescapable and inevitable. We must demonstrate and prove to all the workers—using the instance of the bourgeois betrayal of the people on the   question of the boycott, as well as other examples—we must demonstrate that all these Petrunkeviches and the like are already full-fledged Cavaignacs and Thiers.[4]

Let us assume that we shall not cope with the task of frustrating this Duma before it makes an appearance. Let us assume that the Duma meets. Constitutional conflicts within it will be inevitable, for the bourgeoisie is certain to aspire to power. Even then, we must support this aspiration, since the proletariat also has something to gain from a constitutional system too, because the rule of the bourgeoisie as a class will clear the ground for our struggle for socialism. That is all true. But this is just where our radical divergence of opinion from the new Iskra begins, not ends. This divergence is not on the question of whether support should be given to bourgeois democrats, but on the question of the means of giving that support in a revolutionary epoch and of exerting pressure on them. By justifying their treachery or shutting one’s eyes to it, by hastening to make deals with them, rushing to play at parliamentarianism, exacting promises and pledges from them, you achieve only one thing—they exert pressure on you, not you on them! We have lived to see the revolution. The time of mere literary pressure is gone; the time of parliamentary pressure has not yet arrived. It is only an uprising that can exercise effective, not paltry pressure. When civil war spreads over the whole country, pressure is exercised by armed force, by giving battle, and then any other attempt to bring pressure to bear amounts to hollow and wretched phrase-mongering. Nobody has yet ventured to assert that the period of insurrection has passed in Russia. And since that is so, any avoidance of the tasks of a rising, any argument against its necessity, any “watering-down” of our demands to the bourgeois democrats that they participate in the uprising, means laying down our arms at the feet of the bourgeoisie, converting the proletariat into an appendage of the bourgeoisie. Nowhere in the world has the proletariat as yet ever laid down its arms when a serious struggle has commenced, nor has it ever yet yielded to the accursed heritage of oppression and exploitation without measuring swords with the enemy. Such are now our means and hopes of bringing pressure to bear. No one can foretell the outcome of the struggle. If   the proletariat is victorious—it will be the workers and peas ants who will make the revolution, and not, the Golovins and Struves. If the proletariat is defeated—the bourgeoisie will obtain new constitutional rewards for assisting the autocracy in this struggle. Then and only then a new era will be inaugurated, a new generation will come forward, European history will repeat itself, parliamentarianism will for a time become the real touchstone of all politics.

If you want to exercise pressure now, then prepare for insurrection, preach it, and organise it. Only an uprising holds out the possibility that the Duma farce will not be the end of the Russian bourgeois revolution, but the beginning of a complete democratic upheaval, which will kindle the fire of proletarian revolutions all over the world. Only an uprising can guarantee that our “United Landtag” will become the prelude to a constituent assembly of a non Frankfort type, that the revolution will not end in a mere March 18 (1848), that we shall have not only a July 14 (1789), but also an August 10 (1792). Only an uprising, and not pledges obtained from the Osvobozhdeniye League members, can be a surety that from the ranks of the latter there will emerge individual Johann Jacobys,[5] who, finally disgusted by the loathsomeness of the Golovin’s cringing and fawning, will at the last minute march in the ranks of the proletariat and the peasantry to fight for the revolution.


[1] Foreign papers of September21 (N. S.) reported from St. Peters burg that the Bureau of the Zemstvo Congress had received many withdrawals from participation in the September 25 Congress on the ground that its programme had been considerably curtailed by the government. We cannot vouch for the accuracy of this information, but even if it is only a rumour, it undoubtedly confirms our views on the significance of the negotiations between Golovin and Durnovo.—Lenin

[2] Die Vossische Zeitung—a moderate liberal newspaper published in Berlin between 1704 and 1934.

[3] Ledru-Rollin, Alexandre-Auguste (1807-1874)—French politician, representative of the petty-bourgeois democrats.

[4] Cavaignac, Louis-Eugène— French general; Minister for War in the provisional government following the February revolution of 1848. During the June days of 1848, he was in charge of the suppression of the Paris workers’ uprising.

Thiers, Louis-Adolphe— French bourgeois politician and bitter enemy of the working class. In 1871 he was head of the government and displayed great brutality in putting down the uprising of the Paris Communards.

[5] Jacoby, Johann (1805-1877)—German bourgeois democrat, participant in the revolution of 1848. Became a Social-Democrat after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.

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