V. I.   Lenin

The Fight for Freedom and the Fight for Power

Published: Volna, No. 9, May 5, 1906. Signed: N. L—n. Published according to the Volna text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 383-385.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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Novoye Vremya exposes. That newspaper, serving the government which has in practice remained an autocracy, hurls a number of frightful charges against our paper,[1] and warns the Cadets of the dangers the proletarian class struggle holds in store for the bourgeoisie. Besides its usual denunciations to the authorities, the arguments in Novoye Vremya contain a number of points that are of vital, public interest..

Are not the Cadets ashamed,” asks Novoye Vremya, “to represent social-revolutionaries [referring to Volna] as ’the vanguard in the struggle for political freedom’? They are nothing of the kind. They are not fighting for freedom, but for power, and as against the old autocracy they are advancing their own sovereignty—the sovereignty of the proletariat.”

Novoye Vremya is a faithful servant of the autocratic government. The servant, in his master’s interests, is at pains to scare the bourgeoisie with the spectre of socialist revolution. That is its first object. Its second object is to depict the revolution now in progress as socialist: to confuse “sovereignty of the people” with “sovereignty of the proletariat”.

It is no accident that the servants of the autocracy resort to trickery and fraud to achieve these two objects. The servants of old autocracies have everywhere and always resort ed to such fraud, and not only in newspaper articles, but in all their policy.

That is why it is most important to examine the deception perpetrated by Novoye Vremya. First of all, we shall deal with the “horrible” discovery that “they” are fighting, not for freedom, but for power. Let us see what this means. People’s freedom can be ensured only when the people can really,   without let or hindrance, form their associations, hold meetings, publish newspapers, make their own laws and elect and replace all officials in the state who are entrusted with carrying out the laws and administering the country on the basis of the laws. Thus people’s freedom can be really and fully ensured only when all power in the state really and fully belongs to the people. This is absolutely obvious; and it is only the deliberate desire to confuse the minds of the people that prompts such servants of the government as Novoye Vremya. It is this obvious truth that is established in the programme of the workers’ party. In this programme, the political demands that are feasible in bourgeois society, i. e., a society in which the private ownership of the means of production and production for the market prevails, are head ed by the demand for the sovereignty of the people. Whoever fights for freedom for the people, but does not fight for the sovereignty of the people in the state, is either inconsistent or insincere.

This is how matters stand as regards the struggle for freedom and the struggle for power, arguing in purely logical terms. In the history of the struggle for freedom, the, position has always been that the people, in fighting for freedom, at the beginning of their struggle received promises from the old regime to the effect that it would ensure their freedom. Prompted by fear of revolution, the old state power, which is independent of the people and is a power over the people, promises the people that it will ensure their freedom. But its promises remain unfulfilled; they cannot be fulfilled in their entirety so long as there exists a government which cannot be recalled by the people. And so, at a certain stage in the history of all revolutions, a moment arrives when the obvious logic of the foregoing argument penetrates the minds of the broad masses of the people, under the influence of the lessons taught by experience.

Such a moment is also approaching in Russia. In its historical aspect, the struggle in October 1905 was a struggle for a promise by the old regime to ensure freedom. And a promise is all that the people have succeeded in getting so far. But the numerous unsuccessful efforts to fight for some thing more have not been in vain. They prepared the people for a more serious struggle. The contradiction between the   promise of freedom and the absence of freedom, between the omnipotence of the old regime, which conducts all affairs, and the impotence of the “people’s representatives” in the Duma, who do nothing but talk, is now, precisely as a result of the experience of the Duma, penetrating the minds of the masses more and more clearly, deeply and sharply. The struggle for full power for the people with the aim of ensuring full freedom for the people is approaching with amazing rapidity, not only because of the subjective logic of our arguments, but also because of the objective logic of political events. That is why a few days’ sessions of the Duma were sufficient to cause a fresh breeze to blow. The Duma is a splendid instrument of exposure, and it particularly well exposes deceptive ideas about the power of such a Duma, about the value of promises, about the usefulness of constitutions bestowed from above, or of agreements between the old regime and the new freedom. And that is why signs of a new and real step forward by the movement for freedom are revealing themselves so early. The Cadet election victories at first turned everybody’s head. The Cadets’ behaviour in the Duma is already causing their halo to fade. And advocates of a compromise between the old regime and the new freedom are losing, and inevitably will lose, their glamour in the eyes of the people as the struggle for full power for the people, for full freedom for the people, draws nearer.


[1] Volna (The Wave)—a Bolshevik daily published legally in St. Petersburg from April 26 (May 9) to May 24 (June 6), 1906. Twenty-five issues appeared in all.

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