Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution


How Should “The Revolution Be Pushed Forward”?

Let us quote the next section of the resolution:

“Under such conditions, Social-Democracy must strive to maintain during the whole course of the revolution, a position which will best of all secure for it the possibility of pushing the revolution forward, which will not tie the hands of Social-Democracy in its struggle against the inconsistent and self-seeking policy of the bourgeois parties and which will preserve it from being merged in bourgeois democracy.

“Therefore, Social-Democracy must not set itself the aim of seizing or sharing power in the provisional government, but must remain the party of extreme revolutionary opposition.”

The advice to occupy a position which best ensures the possibility of advancing the revolution pleases us very much indeed. We would only desire that this piece of good advice should be accompanied by a direct indication as to how Social-Democracy should further advance the revolution right now, in the present political situation, in a period of rumours, conjectures, and talk and schemes about the convocation of the people’s representatives. Can the revolution now be further advanced by those who fail to understand the danger of the Osvobozhdeniye theory of “compromise” between the people and the tsar, by those who call a mere “decision” to convene a constituent assembly a victory, who do not set themselves the task of carrying on active propaganda of the idea of the need for a provisional revolutionary government, or who leave the slogan of a democratic republic in the background? Such people actually pull the revolution back, because, as far as practical politics are concerned, they have stopped at the level of the Osvobozhdeniye stand. What is the use of their recognising a programme which demands that the autocracy be replaced by a republic, if in a resolution on tactics that defines the Party’s present and immediate tasks in the period of revolution they omit the slogan of a struggle for a republic? It is the Osvobozhdeniye position, the position of the constitutionalist bourgeoisie, that is now actually characterised by the fact that a decision to convene a popular constituent assembly is considered a decisive victory, while a prudent silence is maintained on the subject of a provisional revolutionary government and a republic! To advance the revolution, to take it beyond the limits to which the monarchist bourgeoisie advances it, it is necessary actively to produce, emphasise, and bring into the forefront slogans that will preclude the “inconsistency” of bourgeois democracy. At present there are only two such slogans: 1) a provisional revolutionary government, and 2) a republic, because the slogan of a popular constituent assembly has been accepted by the monarchist bourgeoisie (see the programme of the Osvobozhdeniye League) and accepted for the very purpose of devitalising the revolution, preventing its complete victory, and enabling the big bourgeoisie to strike a huckster’s bargain with tsarism. And now we see that of the two slogans, which alone are capable of advancing the revolution, the Conference completely forgot the slogan of a republic, and plainly put the slogan of a provisional revolutionary government on a par with the Osvobozhdeniye slogan of a popular constituent assembly, calling both the one and the other “a decisive victory of the revolution”!!

Indeed, such is the undoubted fact, which, we are sure, will serve as a landmark for the future historian of Russian Social-Democracy. The Conference of Social-Democrats held in May 1905 passed a resolution which contains fine words about the necessity of advancing the democratic revolution, but in fact pulls it back and goes no farther than the democratic slogans of the monarchist bourgeoisie.

The new-Iskra group likes to accuse us of ignoring the danger of the proletariat becoming dissolved in bourgeois democracy. We should like to see the person who would undertake to prove this charge on the basis of the text of the resolutions passed by the Third Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. Our reply to our opponents is—a Social-Democratic Party which operates in a bourgeois society cannot take part in politics without marching, in certain cases, side by side with bourgeois democracy. The difference between us in this respect is that we march side by side with the revolutionary and republican bourgeoisie, without merging with it, whereas you march side by side with the liberal and the monarchist bourgeoisie, without merging with it either. That is how matters stand.

The tactical slogans you have formulated in the name of the Conference coincide with the slogans of the “Constitutional-Democratic” Party, i.e., the party of the monarchist bourgeoisie; moreover, you have not even noticed or realised this coincidence, thus actually following in the wake of the Osvobozhdeniye fraternity.

The tactical slogans we have formulated in the name of the Third Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party coincide with the slogans of the democratic-revolutionary and republican bourgeoisie. In Russia this bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie have not yet formed themselves into a big people’s party.[1] But only one who is utterly ignorant of what is now taking place in Russia can doubt that elements of such a party exist. We intend to guide (if the great Russian revolution makes progress) not only the proletariat, organised by the Social-Democratic Party, but also this petty bourgeoisie, which is capable of marching side by side with us.

Through its resolution the Conference unconsciously descends to the level of the liberal and monarchist bourgeoisie. The Party Congress in its resolution consciously raises to its own level those elements of the revolutionary democracy that are capable of waging a struggle and not of acting as brokers.

Such elements are mostly to be found among the peasants. In classifying the big social groups according to their political tendencies we can, without danger of serious error, identify revolutionary and republican democracy with the mass of the peasants—of course, in the same sense and with the same reservations and implied conditions as we can identify the working class with Social-Democracy. In other words, we can also formulate our conclusions in the following terms: in a revolutionary period the Conference in its national-wide[2] political slogans unconsciously descends to the level of the mass of the landlords. The Party Congress in its national political slogans raises the peasant masses to the revolutionary level. We challenge anyone who because of this conclusion may accuse us of evincing a penchant for paradoxes, to refute the proposition that if we are not strong enough to bring the revolution to a successful conclusion, if the revolution terminates in a “decisive victory” in the Osvobozhdentsi sense, i.e., exclusively in the form of a representative assembly convened by the tsar, which could be called a constituent assembly only in derision—then this will be a revolution in which the landlord and big bourgeois element will preponderate. On the other hand, if we are destined to live through a really great revolution, if history prevents a “miscarriage” this time, if we are strong enough to carry the revolution to a successful conclusion, to a decisive victory, not in the Osvobozhdeniye or the new Iskra sense of the word, then it will be a revolution in which the peasant and proletarian element will preponderate.

Some people may, perhaps, interpret our admission that such a preponderance is possible as a renunciation of the view that the impending revolution will be bourgeois in character. This is very likely, considering how this concept is misused in the Iskra. For this reason it will not be at all superfluous to dwell on this question.


[1] The Socialist-Revolutionaries are a terrorist group of intellectuals rather than the embryo of such a party, although the objective significance of this group’s activities can be reduced to this very task of achieving the aims of the revolutionary and republican bourgeoisie. —Lenin

[2] We are not referring here to the special peasant slogans which were dealt with in separate resolutions. —Lenin

  The Abolition of the Monarchist System and the Republic | From what Direction is the Proletariat Threatened with the Danger of Having its Hands Tied in the Struggle Against the Inconsistent Bourgeoisie?  

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