Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution


The Tactics of “Eliminating The Conservatives from the Government”

The article in the organ of the Tiflis Menshevik “Committee” (Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 1) to which we have just referred is entitled “The Zemsky Sobor and Our Tactics.” Its author has not yet entirely forgotten our program; he advances the slogan of a republic, but this is how he discusses tactics:

“It is possible to point to two ways of achieving this goal” (a republic): “either completely ignore the Zemsky Sobor that is being convened by the government and defeat the government by force of arms, form a revolutionary government and convene a constituent assembly, or declare the Zemsky Sobor the centre of our actions, influencing its composition and activity by force of arms and either forcibly compelling it to declare itself a constituent assembly or convening a constituent assembly through it. These two tactics differ very sharply from one another. Let us see which of them is more advantageous to us.”

This is how the Russian new-Iskraists set forth the ideas that were subsequently incorporated in the resolution we have analysed. Note that this was written before the battle of Tsushima,[8] when the Bulygin “scheme” had not yet seen the light of the day. Even the liberals were losing patience and expressing their lack of confidence in the pages of the legal press; but a new Iskra-ist Social-Democrat proved more credulous than the liberals. He declares that the Zemsky Sobor “is being convened” and trusts the tsar so much that he proposes to make this as yet non-existent Zemsky Sobor (or, possibly, “State Duma” or “Advisory Legislative Assembly”?) the centre of our actions. Being more outspoken and straightforward than the authors of the resolution adopted at the Conference, our Tiflisian does not put the two “tactics” (which he expounds with inimitable naïveté) on a par but declares that the second is more “advantageous.” Just listen:

“The first tactics. As you know, the coming revolution is a bourgeois revolution, i.e., its purpose is to effect such changes in the present system as are of interest not only to the proletariat but to the whole of bourgeois society. All classes are opposed to the government, even the capitalists themselves. The militant proletariat and the militant bourgeoisie are in a certain sense marching together and jointly attacking the autocracy from different sides. The government is completely isolated and lacks public sympathy. For this reason it is very easy to destroy it. The Russian proletariat as a whole is not yet sufficiently class conscious and organised to be able to carry out the revolution by itself. And even if it were able to do so, it would carry through a proletarian (socialist) revolution and not a bourgeois revolution. Hence, it is in our interest that the government remain without allies, that it be unable to disunite the opposition, unable to ally the bourgeoisie to itself and leave the proletariat isolated....”

So, it is in the interests of the proletariat that the tsarist government shall not be able to disunite the bourgeoisie and the proletariat! Is it not by mistake that this Georgian organ is called Sotsial-Demokrat instead of Osvobozhdeniye? And note its peerless philosophy of democratic revolution! Is it not obvious that this poor Tiflisian is hopelessly confused by the pedantic khvostist interpretation of the concept “bourgeois revolution”? He discusses the question of the possible isolation of the proletariat in a democratic revolution and forgets ... forgets about a trifle ... about the peasantry! of the possible allies of the proletariat he knows and favours the landowning Zemstvo-ists and is not aware of the peasants. And this in the Caucasus! Well, were we not right when we said that by its method of reasoning the new Iskra was sinking to the level of the monarchist bourgeoisie instead of raising the revolutionary peasantry to the position of our ally?

“... Otherwise the defeat of the proletariat and the victory of the government is inevitable. This is just what the autocracy is striving for. In its Zemsky Sobor it will undoubtedly attract to its side the representatives of the nobility, of the Zemstvos, the cities, the universities and similar bourgeois institutions. It will try to appease them with petty concessions and thereby reconcile them to itself. Strengthened in this way, it will direct all its blows against the working people who will have been isolated. It is our duty to prevent such an unfortunate outcome. But can this be done of the first method? Let us assume that we paid no attention whatever to the Zemsky Sobor, but started to prepare for insurrection ourselves, and one fine day came out in the streets armed and ready for battle. The result would be that we would be confronted not with one but with two enemies: the government and the Zemsky Sobor. While we were preparing, they would manage to come to terms, enter into an agreement with one another, draw up a constitution advantageous to themselves and divide power between them. These tactics are of direct advantage to the government, and we must reject them in the most energetic fashion....”

Now this is frank! We must resolutely reject the “tactics” of preparing an insurrection because “meanwhile” the government would come to terms with the bourgeoisie! Can one find in the old literature of the most rabid “Economism” anything that would even approximate such a disgrace to revolutionary Social-Democracy? That insurrections and outbreaks of workers and peasants are occurring, first in one place and then in another, is a fact. The Zemsky Sobor, however, is a Bulygin promise. And the Sotsial-Demokrat of the city of Tiflis decides: to reject the tactics of preparing an insurrection and to wait for a “centre of influence”—the Zemsky Sobor....

“...The second tactics, on the contrary, consist in placing the Zemsky Sobor under our surveillance, in not giving it the opportunity to act according to its own will and enter into an agreement with the government.[1]

“We support the Zemsky Sobor to the extent that it fights the autocracy, and we fight it in those cases when it becomes reconciled with the autocracy. By energetic interference and force we shall cause a split among the deputies[2] , rally the radicals to our side, eliminate the conservatives from the government and thus put the whole Zemsky Sobor on the path of revolution. Thanks to such tactics the government will always remain isolated, the opposition strong and the establishment of a democratic system will thereby be facilitated.”

Well, well! Let anyone now say that we exaggerate the new Iskra-ists’ turn to the most vulgar semblance of Economism. This is positively like the famous powder for exterminating flies: you catch the fly, sprinkle it with the powder and the fly will die. Split the deputies of the Zemsky Sobor by force, “eliminate the conservatives from the government”—and the whole Zemsky Sobor will take the path of revolution. . . . No “Jacobin” armed insurrection of any sort, but just like that, in genteel, almost parliamentary fashion, “influencing” the members of the Zemsky Sobor.

Poor Russia! It has been said that she always wears the old-fashioned bonnets that Europe discards. We have no parliament as yet, even Bulygin has not yet promised one, but we have any amount of parliamentary cretinism.[9]

“. . . How should this interference be effected? First of all, we shall demand that the Zemsky Sobor be convened on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, direct elections and secret ballot. Simultaneously with the announcement[3] of this method of election, complete freedom to carry on the election campaign, i.e., freedom of assembly, of speech and of the press, the inviolability of the electors and the candidates and the release of all political prisoners must be made law.[4] The elections themselves must be fixed as late as possible so that we have sufficient time to inform and prepare the people. And since the drafting of the regulations governing the convocation of the Sobor has been entrusted to a commission headed by Bulygin, Minister of the Interior, we should also exert pressure on this commission and on its members.[5] If the Bulygin Commission refuses to satisfy our demands[6] and grants suffrage only to property owners, then we must interfere in these elections and, by revolutionary means, force the voters to elect progressive candidates and in the Zemsky Sobor demand a constituent assembly. Finally, we must, by all possible measures: demonstrations, strikes and insurrection if need be, compel the Zemsky Sobor to convene a constituent assembly or declare itself to be such. The armed proletariat must constitute itself the defender of the constituent assembly, and both together[7] will march forward to a democratic republic.

“Such are the Social-Democratic tactics, and they alone will secure us victory.”

Let not the reader imagine that this incredible nonsense is simply a maiden attempt at writing on the part of some new Iskra adherent with no authority or influence. No, this is what is stated in the organ of an entire committee of new Iskra-ists, the Tiflis Committee. More than that. This nonsense has been openly endorsed by theIskra” in No. 100 of which we read the following about that issue of the Sotsial-Demokrat :

The first issue is edited in a lively and talented manner. The experienced hand of a capable editor and writer is perceptible. . . . It may be said with all confidence that the newspaper will brilliantly carry out the task it has set itself.”

Yes! If that task is clearly to show all and sundry the utter ideological decay of new Iskra, then it has indeed been carried out “brilliantly.” No one could have expressed the new Iskra degradation to liberal bourgeois opportunism in a more “lively, talented and capable” manner.


[1] By what means can the Zemstvoists be deprived of their own will? Perhaps by the use of a special sort of litmus paper? —Lenin

[2] Heavens! This is certainly rendering tactics “profound”! There are no forces available to fight in the streets, but it is possible “to split the deputies” “by force.” Listen, comrade from Tiflis, one may prevaricate, but one should know the limit.... —Lenin

[3] In Iskra?Lenin

[4] By Nicholas? —Lenin

[5] So this is what is meant by the tactic of “eliminating the conservatives from the government”! —Lenin

[6] But surely such a thing cannot happen if we follow this correct and profound tactic! —Lenin

[7] Both the armed proletariat and the conservatives “eliminated from the government”? —Lenin



  From what Direction is the Proletariat Threatened with the Danger of Having its Hands Tied in the Struggle Against the Inconsistent Bourgeoisie? | Osvobozhdeniyeism and New Iskra Trends  

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