V. I.   Lenin

Yes-Men of the Cadets

Published: Ekho, No. 5, June 27, 1906. Published according to the Ekho text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 64-68.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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Yesterday we published the main resolutions adopted by the Fifth Congress of the Polish Social-Democratic Party.[1] The Polish comrades—25,000-3O,000 strong, now affiliated to our Party—expressed their emphatic opposition to the Central Committee’s tactics in relation to the State Duma. Condemning these tactics as a whole, they did not deem it necessary to dwell on the individual mistakes that inevitably follow from these wrong tactics, such as the notorious support for a Cadet Cabinet. But it goes without saying— and those who were present at the Polish Congress know this perfectly well—that the Polish Social-Democrats are absolutely opposed to this “support”. The Conference, representing all the St. Petersburg Social-Democrats also emphatically rejected support for a Cadet Cabinet[2]; and the Regional Conference representing the Social-Democrats of the Central Moscow District, too, pronounced against it.[3]

The St. Petersburg Conference represented about 4,000 Party members, and the Moscow Regional Conference about 14,000. Thus, about 20,000 members of the. Party, that is, the major half of the membership (at the last congress 31,000-33,000 members were represented) have condemned the Central Committee’s tactics on the question of supporting a Duma Cabinet. The majority of the Party membership is opposed to this policy. Our Party Cabinet, that is to say, the Central Committee of our Party, no longer expresses the Party’s opinion. Its elementary political duty now is to expedite the convening of an immediate extraordinary congress. If it fails to do that it will become a clique, clinging to power in the Party on pretexts for delay and excuses of a formal nature, in spite of the expressed opinion of the Party   on the substance of the issue. At all events, the Party will now be able to secure the convocation of a congress.

The Mensheviks continue to advocate the tactics of supporting a Duma, i.e., a Cadet Cabinet, tactics that have been condemned by the majority of the Party membership (although, as the discussion in St. Petersburg has shown, a number of Mensheviks have now taken up an independent position and have turned away from opportunism). Let us, once again, examine the current arguments of the Right-wing Social-Democrats.

We are told that to secure the appointment of a Duma Cabinet means “wresting power from the hands of the camarilla”, means “making the executive power responsible to the representative assembly of the people”; that it is “the transition from a pseudo-constitutional system to a real constitution” (Golos Truda, No. 5).

That is a downright lie. The Duma, i.e., Cadet, Cabinet will be appointed (if the Cadets’ demand is conceded) by the camarilla. But can the appointment of liberal Cabinet Ministers by the camarilla be called “wresting power”. Appointing Ministers at its own discretion, the camarilla can dismiss them at any time. The camarilla does not surrender power, but pretends to share power; the camarilla tests the liberal flunkeys to see whether they suit it or not. The shrewd members of the camarilla, like Pobedonostsev and Trepov, for example (judging by certain newspaper reports), frankly argue in this way: the best thing for us would be to appoint liberal Ministers. By so doing we should not only pacify the Cadets (i.e., the majority in the Duma) but also the pro-Cadet Social-Democrats. And it is much easier to get rid of undesirable Ministers than to get rid of the Duma, let us say. We shall gain time, shuffle the cards, create utter chaos, mutual distrust and bickering over ministerial port folios in the Right wing, i.e., the major half, of the Duma, stir up trouble, and lead the Cadets by the nose as we did on the question of famine relief. On that question we compelled them “voluntarily” to play the role of police witnesses. Similarly, in their ministerial office we shall compel them to play the role of police flunkeys.

Whoever is at all familiar with the history of the Russian Cadets, and of the “Cadets” in other countries, knoWs that   the camarilla has always succeeded in leading the liberal- monarchist bourgeoisie by the nose. The only way to prevent this is to develop the independent political consciousness of the proletarians and revolutionary peasants. And it is just the Right Social-Democrats who are now obscuring and muddling this consciousness. To keep the political consciousness of the revolutionary classes absolutely clear, and to preserve their complete fighting independence, we Social-Democrats must leave it entirely to the Cadets to grovel at the feet of the camarilla for the sake of ministerial jobs. To involve the proletariat in this business would be to betray the interests of the proletariat and the interests of the revolution.

If the camarilla were to appoint Cadets as Ministers it would make “the executive power responsible to the representative assembly of the people” (Golos Truda).

That is a downright lie. When Cadet professors say it— well, God will forgive them. But it is unpardonable for a Social-Democrat to repeat it. The executive power, most worthy yes-men, is not responsible to “the representative assembly of the people”, but to the legislative power. Please remember this. Now let us explain the matter further. In whose hands is the legislative power in Russia today? 1) The supreme authority; 2) the Council of State; 3) the State Duma.

Do you understand your mistake now? The Cadet Ministers will be responsible to the Duma, to the Council of State and to the camarilla. To try to make out that they will be responsible only to the Duma means lying to the people.

To proceed. What will be the position of Ministers who are responsible to the most diverse institutions? A false one. The Ministers will be obliged to observe and uphold all the existing laws until they are repealed by all the three legislative bodies enumerated above. It is not surprising, therefore, that eloquent Cadets like Rodichev, are gesticulating in the Duma and declaiming that they are—the shield of the dynasty. The Cadets know what’s what. The Right Social-Democrats, however, try to sing in harmony with them, but they don’t understand what they are doing.

Why has the Cabinet become the focal point of the Cadets’ campaign? Why are they not shouting equally zealously, frequently and loudly: Down with the Council of State!   Down with the laws that are preventing the representative assembly of the people from becoming the legislative power!? Why are they conducting a thousand times smaller campaign for a general amnesty, for complete freedom and for universal suffrage than they are conducting for ministerial jobs? Have you thought about this? No, you have not. The Cadets are knocking at the back door in the first place because they don’t want complete freedom (recall their Public Meetings Bill); they don’t want the complete abolition of the Council of State (remember the Upper Chamber in their programme), to which they will also be responsible, and to the same extent as to the Duma, and so forth. The Cadets do not want to demand that the government should first grant a general amnesty, first abolish the Council of State, first introduce complete freedom, first grant universal, etc. suffrage, and only then appoint them as Cabinet Ministers. Why don’t the Cadets want to do this? Because they know what’s what; but the yes-men of the Cadets do not.

The Cadets say: When we become Ministers then we will fight for all these liberties! It can’t be done at once, you know. And their yes-men believe them, and do their best

The Cadets know that the Cabinet Minister will be responsible to the old, police, Russian laws; responsible to the Duma, to the camarilla and to the Council of State. And so the Minister will say in the suavest tones: I would only be too glad; I am with you heart and soul; but, you see, “the others” don’t agree; and the Council of State is still a bit stubborn, you know. Have patience, gentlemen. I am a Cadet, and nobody can touch the conscience of the camarilla, or of the Council of State, better than the Cadets, I assure you.

Remember this, my dear yes-men; to combat the treacherous tactics of the Cadets what is required is not to echo the Cadets, but to preserve complete independence, that is to say, to warn the proletariat and the peasants not to trust the Cadets, not to repeat the Cadet slogans. Your tactics are hindering the independent struggle of the working class and revolutionary peasantry. You are selling our revolutionary birthright for a mess of Cadet reformist pottage.

There is no need for us to explain in such detail the third lie, viz., that the appointment of Cadet Ministers by the   camarilla marks a “decisive change”, the transition to a “real constitution”. Our readers themselves will understand that the fact that Trepov appoints Rodichev as a Cabinet Minister does not even change the written constitution. To speak of a change of the real constitution as the result of such an appointment is to allow your tongue to run away with you.

In our next issue we shall examine another current argument, namely: “After all, a Cadet Cabinet will be better. We have nothing else to choose from. We must support what is better.” We shall see whether this is a sound, Social-Democratic argument.


[1] The Fifth Congress of the Social-Democratic Party of Poland and Lithuania was held June 5-12 (18-25), 1906 in Zakopane (Galicia), attended by 52 delegates with the right to speak and vote and 8 consultative delegates. Among the delegates was V. V. Vorovsky representing the editorial board of the newspaper Vperyod. The report of the Executive Committee of the Party was delivered by F. E. Dzerzhinsky (at the Congress he used the name Frankovsky). The main resolutions of the Congress were printed in Ekho, No. 4 of June 25 (July 8), 1906.

[2] The Conference of the St. Petersburg Organisation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party was held in Terioki (Finland) on June 11-12 (24-25), 1906. It was convened by the St. Peters burg Committee for formulating the tactics of the St. Petersburg proletariat towards the State Duma. The elections at the Conference were preceded by a discussion of two tactical platforms: the Menshevik resolution of the Central Committee supporting the slogan of a Duma Cabinet and the Bolshevik resolution of the St. Petersburg Committee (see present edition, Vol. 10, pp. 481-482).

The Conference was attended by about 80 delegates, who represented some 4,000 members of the Party. Lenin delivered a re port on behalf of the St. Petersburg Committee. He was opposed by Dan, who defended the standpoint of the Central Committee. A resolution approving the line of the St. Petersburg Committee was adopted by a majority of votes.

The resolution adopted on Lenin’s report on Party unity pointed out that the Central Committee expressed only the opinion of a minority of the Party and put forward the demand that a new Party congress should be convened to decide the situation created in the Party. The Conference decided to establish a permanent liaison between the St. Petersburg Party organisation and the Social-Democratic Group in the Duma.

[3] The Moscow Regional Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. (Conference of the Northern Committees) took place in the first half of June 1906. It was attended by representatives of the committees of Moscow, Moscow District, Vologda, Yaroslavl, Kineshma, Kostroma, Vladimir District, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Borisoglebsk, Nizhni Novgorod, Oral, Kozlov, and the Social-Democratic group of the   town of Shuya. The Conference represented 14,000 organised workers.

The Conference condemned the tactics of the Menshevik Central Committee, which had expressed support for the demand for a Duma Cabinet, and adopted the following resolution: “The Northern Union declares that it is not in agreement with the platform of the Central Committee, since it does not consider this platform to be in accord with the directives of the Party Congress, and it proposes that support be given to the extreme Left in the Duma” (Ekho, No. 3, June 24, 1906). The Conference proposed that the extreme Left in the Duma should appeal to the people through a manifesto, in which it would “explain all the weakness of the Duma, and its total inability to achieve anything, and call upon the people to prepare for independent action” (ibid.).

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