V. I.   Lenin

Government, Duma and People

Published: Volna, No. 20, May 18, 1906. Published according to the Volna text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 426-429.
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.
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The Duma is at loggerheads with the government. It has passed a vote of no confidence in the Ministry and has demanded its resignation. The Ministry has ignored the Duma’s declaration and is jeering at it even more openly than before, suggesting that it should concern itself with the question of providing a laundry for office care-takers in the town of Yuriev.

What is at the bottom of this quarrel, of this conflict between the Duma and the government? The broad masses of the peasantry, the ordinary townspeople, and also a number of bourgeois politicians (the Cadets) imagine, or are trying to convince themselves and others, that the conflict is due to the government not understanding its duties and its position. When this misunderstanding is cleared up, when people become accustomed to the novelty, i.e., to the constitutional regime, to the necessity of deciding affairs of state by the vote of the citizens and not by the orders of the old authority, things will settle down in their normal course. According to this opinion, we are in the presence of a “constitutional conflict”, i.e., a conflict between different institutions in a constitutional state which recognises both the old authority and the authority of the representatives of the people. They will get used to each other—this is what the man in the street thinks, and how the bourgeois politician reasons. The man in the street thinks so because of his simplicity and political inexperience. The bourgeois politician thinks so because these thoughts answer to the interests of his class.

For example, Rech, the chief organ of the Cadets, says: “Our Ministers are even less experienced in the theory and   practice of constitutionalism than most of our deputies.” The point, you see, is the inexperience of the Ministers who have not taken lessons in constitutional law from Professors Kovalevsky and Milyukov. That is just the point. Well, if they have not learned from books, they will learn from the speeches delivered in the Duma. They will get used to each other. To prove its case, the Cadet Rech refers to the German bourgeoisie. The German bourgeoisie, too, was— let us put it mildly—at loggerheads with the government in 1848. It, too, sought, or meant to seek, complete power and complete freedom for the people. After the German Government had suppressed the struggle of the people, the bourgeoisie was permitted to have its representatives in parliament. While the representatives talked, the old authority acted. The representatives talked and explained to the Ministers that they “did not understand”; they taught them “constitutionalism”, and kept on teaching them for a matter of fifteen years, from the late 1840s to the early 1860s. In the 1860s Bismarck openly quarrelled with the bourgeois “representatives of the people”, but this was the last out burst in the family quarrel. The bourgeoisie was swept off its feet by the victories of the German army, and fully contented itself with manhood suffrage, while the aristocratic and bureaucratic government retained all its powers.

Now it is this last serious quarrel between Bismarck and the representatives of the “people” that the Cadet Rech is particularly pleased with. The German bourgeoisie (fifteen years after the revolution had been finally crushed) yielded to Bismarck. But in Russia the bourgeoisie will at one stroke compel Goremykin to yield. And the Cadets are rejoicing in anticipation: Goremykin will have to concede more than Bismarck conceded in his day.

We readily agree that Goremykin is far from being a Bismarck. But we think that it is particularly important now for the working class to understand the very substance of the deals between the bourgeoisie and the Bismarcks, whereas the question of the measure of the future concessions is a matter for the future. The Bismarcks made up their quarrel with the bourgeoisie only after the revolution had been finally crushed, when the bourgeoisie had completely betrayed the “people’s freedom”, when it was living   in peace and harmony with the old aristocratic and bureaucratic authority which Was protecting the landlord against the peasant and, above all, protecting the capitalist against the worker.

This was the real and actual basis of the reconciliation between Bismarck and the German Cadets, that is, with the Prussian Progressives. This was the vital background of the “constitutionalism” which the German Kovalevskys and Milyukovs taught the Bismarcks fifteen years after the suppression of the revolution. Perhaps our professors do not know this; professors know their books, but they do not know what goes on in real life. The workers, however, must know this.

The grim struggle that is going on in Russia today is not at all over the concessions on which the Goremykins and the liberal bourgeoisie could agree. The struggle is being waged between the masses of the people, who cannot any longer live in the old conditions, and the old feudal and bureaucratic regime, which cannot exist in truly constitutional conditions. II is not a fight over how the lessons of constitutionalism should be applied, but over whether constitutionalism is possible at all.

This is not a parliamentary conflict, and the Duma it self is far from being a parliament as yet, far from being an instrument of the bourgeois “order” under an established constitution. It is only an indicator and a very feeble reflector of the people’s movement, which is growing outside or independently of the Duma.

The Duma’s conflict with the government is only an indirect indication of the conflict between all the fundamental and mature aspirations of the masses of the peasantry and the working class and the whole intact power of the old regime. These mature aspirations are often briefly expressed by the words: land and freedom. These aspirations have not been met. The forces behind these demands have not developed to the full by a very long way. The conditions under which they can reveal themselves to the full are only just ripening.

It is not to the lessons in constitutionalism given to the Goremykins by the Kovalevskys that we must draw the attention of the people, nor need we keep on recalling   the petty quarrels between the Bismarcks and the upper ranks of the bourgeoisie. The working class and the peasantry will not allow the Cadets to convert the Duma into an arena for such quarrels and such agreements. Every step that expresses the Cadets’ leanings in this direction must be exposed. The Trudovik and Workers’ Groups in the Duma must know that only by dissociating themselves from the Cadets, only by rising above schoolroom lessons in constitutionalism, only by loudly proclaiming all the demands and needs of the people, only by speaking the whole bitter truth, can they make their greatest contribution to the struggle for real freedom.


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