Vperyod, No. 1, May 26, 1906. Signed: N. L..
Published according to the Vperyod text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 460-480.
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. • README
The last two issues of Kuryer contain Comrade Plekhanov’s first letter “On Tactics and Tactlessness”. The liberal-bourgeois press has already quite rightly observed that Comrade Plekhanov is going far more to the right than Kuryer. The whole of this press is praising Comrade Plekhanov to the skies, and holding him up as a model for all other Social-Democrats.
Let us, then, examine Comrade Plekhanov’s arguments as calmly as we can.
Comrade Plekhanov is arguing with the Poltava Social-Democratic newspaper Kolokol, and quotes the following passages from it:
“The mere adoption of a Social-Democratic programme does not in itself make a single individual, or even a whole group, Social-Democratic. To become a Social-Democrat, one must also adopt in their entirety the principles of Social-Democratic tactics.
“The feature that sharply distinguishes the Social-Democratic Party from all other parties is, in addition to its programme, its unrelenting class position in relation to all other, bourgeois parties.”
Comrade Plekhanov is very severe in his “strictures” of this passage. First, he demands that the word “opposition” be substituted for the word “position”. In our opinion, this change would not improve the original wording in the least: if anything, it would worsen it. Secondly, Comrade Plekhanov undertakes the functions of a proof-reader. In the original there was no comma after the word “other”. Unpretentious proof-readers usually correct such mistakes without making a fuss about it. Pretentious proof-readers write a feuilleton nearly half a column long about it!
But let us get down to the subject. What is Comrade Plekhanov’s objection on the point at issue? He says: “The author depicts all the other bourgeois parties as one reactionary mass.”
This is not true. There is not a hint of anything like it in the passage we have quoted. And in the ensuing lines, which Plekhanov himself quotes, the author clearly distinguishes between two types of bourgeois party: (1) “Cadet opposition” parties and (2) “Bight” parties. Comrade Plekhanov’s attempt to ascribe to the author the idea of “one reactionary mass is not only unfair, but positively unworthy of a socialist who wants to discuss a real issue.
“Different bourgeois parties wear different colours”, says Comrade Plekhanov. We have already demonstrated that this correct idea is by no means alien to the author of the article in Kolokol, for he distinguishes between the Cadet opposition “colour” and the Right “colour”. Hence the author has not transgressed against the “principles” of Social-Democratic tactics, in spite of the opinion of the carping; but clumsy, critic. But for the purpose of defining Russian Social-Democratic tactics in the period of revolution it is not enough to distinguish between these two “colours” of the bourgeois parties. Here indeed there is a gap in the ideas, or in the way they are set forth, in Kolokol, but Comrade Plekhanov did not notice it. While inventing non-existent gaps, he overlooked the real gap.
If Comrade Plekhanov had wanted to debate real issues with the Bolsheviks and not argue for the pleasure and entertainment of the Cadet newspapers, he could not but have mentioned that it is the Bolsheviks who have long insisted that it is necessary to distinguish at least three main “colours” among the bourgeois parties. Herein lies one of the main differences between the two tactics; and Comrade Plekhanov’s hopes of being able to obscure this difference in political tactics by sighing like a philistine petty bourgeois over “tactlessness” are vain.
A year ago the Bolshevik pamphlet Two Tactics appeared abroad, and was subsequently republished in Russia. Its author maintained that the main fallacy of Menshevism as a whole was the fact that it did not understand which elements of the bourgeoisie can, together with the proletariat, carry through to the end the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia. The Mensheviks even now go astray by thinking that the bourgeois revolution must be made by the “bourgeoisie” (bourgeoisie in general, irrespective of “colour”!), while it is the function of the proletariat to help it. That explains why the Mensheviks (including Plekhanov) have never been able to define, in anything like a Marxist way, what the “decisive victory of the present revolution” will be in the light of the political regrouping of classes, although they did not mind talking about the decisive victory, even in resolutions. The Bolsheviks’ assertion that decisive victory can mean only the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry was repugnant to them, but they have been unable to refute, correct, or modify it.
The Bolsheviks have asserted, and still do. that the only firm and reliable ally the proletariat can have in the epoch of the bourgeois-democratic revolution (until that revolution wins) is the peasantry. The peasants are also “bourgeois democrats”, but entirely different in “colour” from the Cadets or Octobrists. Before these bourgeois democrats, irrespective of what they themselves want, history has set aims that are genuinely revolutionary as regards the “old order” in Russia. These bourgeois democrats are compelled to fight against the very foundations of landlord power and the old state authority connected with it. These bourgeois democrats are not “compelled” by objective conditions to do their utmost to preserve the old authorities and to complete the revolution by striking a bargain with the old authorities. Therefore in their tendencies—which are determined by what they are compelled to do—these bourgeois democrats are revolutionary democrats. And the Bolsheviks defined the tactics of the socialist proletariat during the bourgeois-democratic revolution as follows: the proletariat must lead the peasantry, without merging with it, against the old authorities and the old order, paralysing the instability and inconsistency of the liberal bourgeoisie, which wavers between people’s freedom and the old authorities.
It is exactly these principles of the tactics of the Russian Social-Democratic proletariat in the present period that the Mensheviks have not understood. Nor has Comrade Plekhanov understood them. And it is this concrete question of our tactics that he is trying to evade, obscure and cover up by his arguments about slips and misprints, by his irrelevant quotations, and so forth.
Judge for yourselves. In Kuryer, No. 5, Plekhanov goes to the length of ascribing to the Bolsheviks the idea that “the proletariat cannot march by the side of the bourgeoisie ... this would be opportunism”.
We are not dead yet, Comrade Plekhanov! Anyone who invents legends about us as if we were dead makes himself ridiculous. Even those who are only slightly familiar with Vperyod, Proletary, Two Tactics, The Victory of the Cadets, and other Bolshevik pamphlets, will see at once that Plekhanov is not speaking the truth.
For eighteen months already the Bolsheviks have been asserting that the Mensheviks’ mistakes are due to their inability to distinguish between the revolutionary bourgeois democrats and all those bourgeois democrats who precisely at the present time are rapidly shedding their revolutionism. For eighteen months already the Bolsheviks have been asserting that owing to their ludicrous dread of “coming close” to the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Mensheviks are coming far too close to the Cadets, and are underrating the importance of the bourgeois democrats of the revolutionary colour. The Bolsheviks assert that the opportunism of the Mensheviks consists in their forgetting the basic interests of democracy, and consequently of socialism, because it cannot achieve real successes in an era of bourgeois revolution unless democracy is successful — on account of the temporary successes of liberalism, and in blind awe at the tawdry triumphs of the Zemstvo people or the Cadets.
This is what constitutes your opportunism, Comrade Plekhanov!
Marx taught us, exclaims Plekhanov, “to inquire what the bourgeoisie is compelled to do, and not what it wants to do”.
Quite so, Comrade Plekhanov. But it is this lesson of Marx’s that you forget when you take his name in vain, just as Bernstein did while undermining Marxism. You forget that the Cadets are “compelled” to seek a bargain with the old authorities, while the peasant or revolutionary democrats are “compelled” to wage a resolute struggle against it; or at any rate, that the Cadets are only capable of striking a bargain, whereas the peasants are also capable of waging a serious struggle. By means of general phrases about what the “bourgeoisie” in general is compelled to do, Comrade Plekhanov obscures the concrete issue, namely, what the “bourgeoisie” of the Cadet colour and the bourgeoisie of the revolutionary-democratic colour are compelled to do.
Now judge who is actually incapable of distinguishing the different colours among the Russian bourgeoisie in our day. Who treats the workers to scholastics, pedantry and “mummified truth”, instead of pointing to the differences within bourgeois democracy that are essential precisely today?
Readers who are seriously interested in this problem should solve it not on the basis of casual impressions, hut by seriously studying Social-Democratic literature and congress decisions. Compare the resolution on the State Duma adopted b the Congress with the resolution proposed by the Bolsheviks. You will find that it is the Congress (Menshevik) resolution that is unable to draw a clear distinction between the peasant democrats and the Cadet democrats. On the other hand, it is just the Bolshevik resolution that stresses this distinction. The Congress resolution merely advises us to expose the inconsistency of all the bourgeois parties, whereas our resolution refers to the in stability of the Cadets, and states that we must unite the peasant democrats against the Cadets. The Congress resolution is quite worthless in this respect, for to expose all bourgeois parties is the duty of the socialists in all countries at all times. Whoever confines himself to this merely repeats Marxist phrases—like a schoolboy learning a lesson by heart—without being able to digest them and apply them to Russia. It is in the period of a bourgeois revolution that to say “expose all bourgeois parties” means saying nothing, and indeed, saying what is not true; for bourgeois parties can be seriously and thoroughly exposed only when particular bourgeois parties step into the foreground of history. Our resolution, on the other hand, distinguishes those particular “colours” that are of political importance today. And that is why the very first steps taken by the Duma con firmed the correctness of our resolution, for they clearly revealed to all the instability of the Cadets and the more revolutionary nature of the “Trudoviks”.
Another example: the attitude to be taken towards the bourgeois parties. How did the Mensheviks decide this question before the Congress? With general phrases—see their draft resolution. And the Bolsheviks? They pointed to three types of bourgeois opposition: the Octobrists, the Cadets and the revolutionary democrats (see the Bolsheviks’ draft resolution). How did the Congress decide this question? The Mensheviks did not dare to submit their resolution, and endorsed the Amsterdam resolution! The Russian Social-Democrats in the period of a bourgeois revolution have nothing to say about the Russian bourgeoisie of different colours except to repeat what is being said in all European countries a hundred years after a bourgeois revolution!!
Is it not obvious that our esteemed Plekhanov is laying the blame at someone else’s door?
Take Comrade Plekhanov’s arguments about “true social ism” in Germany in the 1840s. What was the essence of this “true socialism”? First, incomprehension of the class struggle and the significance of political liberty. Second, inability to see the relative importance of the different strata of the bourgeoisie in the political struggle then being waged. Is it not ridiculous for Comrade Plekhanov to accuse us of this, when it is he, at the head of the Mensheviks, who is obscuring the fundamental—because of present conditions—difference between the Cadet oppositionist bourgeoisie and the revolutionary-democratic bourgeoisie?
This accusation that there is an affinity between the Bolsheviks and “true socialism” in any case deserves a good laugh. Just think of it. We have always heard a chorus of accusation that we were too inflexible and ossified, too adamant. And yet our opponents call us “Blanquists”, “anarchists” and “true socialists”. The Blanquists are conspirators (they have never been in favour of the general strike), they exaggerate the importance of revolutionary govern ment. The anarchists completely repudiate all government, revolutionary or otherwise, and as against the strict organ isation of the Blanquists, they advocate complete licence to disorganise. The “true socialists” are something like peaceful Lavrovists, semi-uplifters, non-revolutionaries, heroes of abstruse thought and abstract sermonising. The Mensheviks could not have found a better stick with which to beat themselves than these mutually exclusive accusations against the Bolsheviks. Our best answer to their charges is to point to this confusion in the Mensheviks’ minds.
We, on the other hand, have always said, and say, that the Mensheviks constitute the Social-Democratic Right wing, inclining towards opportunism, i.e., towards forgetting the permanent, important and fundamental interests of the proletariat for the sake of momentary interests, for the sake of seeming possibilities of “adjusting” oneself to momentary moods, situations and relations.
What do Comrade Plekhanov’s present tactics come down to? To grovelling before the Cadets’ successes, forgetting the very shady sides of their present conduct, disguising their reactionary character compared with the revolutionary bourgeois democrats, and befogging the minds of those workers and peasants who are prone to believe in “petitions” and in a toy parliament.
The Cadets are doing their utmost to appear like ordinary bourgeois democrats, to hide their disagreement with the Trudovik Group, to cover up their disagreements with the peasant democrats and to obtain support for precisely the Right, unreliable wing of the bourgeois democrats. No matter what Comrade Plekhanov’s intentions may be, all he achieves is that he is in practice supporting these reactionary strivings of the Cadets. And that is why they are so lavish in their praise of him.
Comrade Plekhanov says that as far back as 1903 (Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.) he, in controversy with the then Right wing of the Party (Akimov, Martynov and others), urged that it was necessary to support every opposition movement against the autocracy. Marx held the same opinion in 1847. And Plekhanov wants to assure his readers that the Bolsheviks have forgotten this axiom.
Comrade Plekhanov is mistaken. The general thesis that oppositions must be supported is not rejected by those who answer the concrete question whether a particular section of the opposition and revolutionary bourgeoisie should be supported at a given moment. The mistake Comrade Plekhanov makes is, first, that he substitutes an abstract consideration for a concrete historical question. And secondly, his views on bourgeois democracy in Russia are totally unhistorical. He forgets that the position of the different strata of these bourgeois democrats changes as the revolution advances. The higher the revolution rises, the faster do the least revolutionary strata of the bourgeoisie desert it. Those who do not understand this cannot explain any thing at all in the course of the bourgeois revolution.
We will take two examples to illustrate the foregoing.
In 1847 Marx supported the most timid opposition of the German bourgeoisie to the German government. In 1848, he ruthlessly, furiously denounced and lashed the extremely radical German Cadets—much more to the left than our Cadets—who were carrying on “constructive work” in the Frankfurt Parliament, assuring the world that this constructive work was of the greatest agitational importance, and being unable to understand that the struggle for real power was inevitable. Had Marx been false to himself? Had he changed his mind? Had he slipped into Blanquism (as the Bernsteinians and the German liberal professors think)? Not in the least. The revolution had advanced. Not only the German “Shipovites” of 1847, but the German “Cadets” of 1848 as well had fallen behind. As the true guardian of the interests of the advanced class, Marx ruthlessly flayed the stragglers, particularly the more influential among them.
In quoting Marx, Plekhanov misrepresents him.
In 1903, and even earlier, in 1901-02, the old Iskra supported the “Shipovites”, i.e., the timid liberal Zemstvo people of that time who, together with Mr. Struve, issued the slogan of “Bights, and an Authoritative Zemstvo”. The revolution advanced, and the Social-Democrats descended, as ii; were, from the opposition upper ranks of the bourgeoisie to its revolutionary lower ranks. They “badgered” the Shipovites for their vague demands for a constitution; the constitutionalists, for ignoring universal, etc., suffrage; those who accepted the latter, for not accepting the revolution, etc., always in proportion to the development, expansion and deepening of the whole democratic movement. Did the revolutionary Social-Democrats contradict themselves, if from support of the oppositionist “Shipovites” in 1901-02 they went over to support of the revolutionary peasants in 1905-06? Not in the least. They were quite consistent.
It is Comrade Plekhanov who is inconsistent, in allowing the momentary successes of the Cadets to obscure from him the loftier democratic tasks that experience is already bringing to the front.
To proceed. Here is a particularly striking example of Plekhanov’s exceedingly uncritical attitude towards the Cadet Duma.
Comrade Plekhanov quotes the following passage from Kolokol:
“Applying these general propositions to the parliamentary workers’ group, we may say that this group will express the real aspirations of the more militant and class-conscious section of the Russian proletariat, in other words, will deserve to he called a Social-Democratic group insofar as it bases its activities in the Duma on the fundamental tactical principles of Social-Democracy.
“Not to sink in the general Cadet-opposition marsh in the Duma, not to trail behind the Cadet majority in it, but to oppose this majority, and to expose the narrowness of its aspirations, its leanings to wards compromise with the ’Right’ parties and with the government— these are the only tactics worthy of representatives of the proletariat, the truly Social-Democratic tactics that we must strongly recommend to the representatives of the workers in the Duma. If they pursue any other tactics, tactics that obscure the class-consciousness of the proletariat whose representatives the members of this group consider them selves to be in the Duma, they will become hangers-on of the bourgeois parties, tools with which to hinder the proletariat in fulfilling its in dependent tasks in the general course of the Russian revolution.”
Plekhanov comments on this, as follows:
“If our Poltava comrade had to apply his general propositions to the Socialist Party in France he would not have to make any serious changes in the last lines of his article. He could merely substitute the word ’radical’ for the word ’Cadet’, ’Chamber of Deputies’ for ’Duma’, and lastly, the phrase ’social-historical movement’ for ’Russian revolution’. That is amazingly convenient.”
We invite our reader, to go over this passage from Kolokol and Plekhanov’s comment once again. The latter reveals to us with rare clarity one of the causes of Plekhanov’s turn towards Bernstein.
Just think. “Kolokol” could merely substitute, in the last lines of its article, the word “radical” for “Cadet” and the phrase “Chamber of Deputies” for “Duma”.
This argument nails Comrade Plekhanov’s fallacies to the counter. It shows how very far he is from understanding what constitutional illusions are, and hence from under standing the present situation in the Russian bourgeois revolution.
Plekhanov has lost sight of the fundamental difference between the Russian Cadets and the Russian Duma, and the French radicals and the French Chamber of Deputies, between the relations of the former and those of the latter. He has overlooked a very short phrase in the Kolokol article, a very short but very characteristic and notable one. That phrase is: “compromise with the government”.
Think of it, Comrade Plekhanov. Can there be any talk in France about a “compromise” between the Chamber of Deputies and the government? No. Why? Because in France, in all things that matter, the government is subordinate to’ the Chamber. The majority in the Chamber is itself the actual government, for it appoints to the Ministry the men it desires. By securing a majority in the Chamber, the radicals become the government. Today the alignment of parliamentary forces corresponds, more or less, to the align ment of real forces among the people, and to the attitude of the state to the people. Today the written Constitution does not to any extent diverge from the actual Constitution, from the alignment of forces.
In Russia there can and mast be talk about an, agreement between the majority in the Duma. and the government. Why? Because in our country real power belongs, in law and in fact, not at all to the Duma, but to the old autocratic government. Unlike the Chamber of Deputies, the Duma is not an organ of state power, but merely an instrument for the presentation of the petitions, requests and demands of a section of the people to the old authorities. Therefore the majority in the Duma can “enter into an agreement” with the government; for France this would be an absurdity. The alignment of parliamentary forces does not in the least correspond either to the alignment of real forces in the country or to the relations between the state and the people.
In France the actual class struggle is being waged between the forces that are represented in the Chamber, and even the proportion in which these forces are represented corresponds, more or less, to their present relative “fighting strength”.
In Russia the actual struggle is not being waged at all between the forces that are represented in the Duma, and their representation in the Duma is just now very distinctly and fundamentally out of proportion to their present relative “fighting strength”. The real government of Russia is hardly represented in the Duma at all: it has other “institutions”. The proletariat, too, is hardly represented, while the peasantry is very poorly represented in proportion to its numbers.
Comrade Plekhanov’s attempt to draw a parallel between Russia and France shows that he is entirely immersed in constitutional illusions. He takes the name (parliament, chamber) for the object; the label for the contents. That is why he completely loses sight of all the more important special features of the present. situation in Russia, when a struggle is maturing between the “people”—which is least represented in the Duma—.–and the old authorities, and the role of the “compromisers”, of deserters in this struggle, is becoming particularly important and particularly dangerous.
Just as Bernstein in 1899 did an enormous amount of harm to the German proletariat by taking the petty-bourgeois intellectual “compromisers” (the social-liberals who were trying to reconcile the proletariat with the bourgeoisie) for the actual bourgeoisie that was wielding real power, so Plekhanov in 1906 is doing enormous harm to the Russian proletariat by taking the semi-reactionary bourgeois “compromisers” (the Cadets, who are trying to reconcile people’s freedom with the old authorities) for an independent political force in the state, for an authority which it is possible and worth while to support.
Bernstein, in appealing for “tactfulness” towards the social-liberals, in appealing for support for them and pleading that they should not be pushed into the camp of reaction, appealed for support for a fiction. He was chasing the shadow of social peace and was oblivious of the fundamental tasks of the struggle for power.
Plekhanov, in appealing for “tactfulness” towards the Cadets, in appealing for support for them and pleading that they should not be pushed into the camp of reaction, is appealing for support for a fiction. He is chasing the shadow of parliamentarism (in the period of a bourgeois, not a socialist revolution) and is oblivious of the fundamental tasks of the struggle for power.
The social-liberal, Cadet bourgeoisie is carrying both Bernstein and Plekhanov shoulder-high, praising them to the skies, advertising them, reprinting their writings for the services they are rendering it in its struggle against the proletariat.
Make no mistake about it, workers. These phrases about Social-Democrats having to be “tactful” and about “supporting” the Cadets have a specific meaning in real politics, a meaning that is determined by the actual alignment of forces and not by Plekhanov’s good intentions. It may not have been Plekhanov’s intention to allay or blunt political and social antagonisms between the classes, and between the people and the old authorities; he may assure other people that he had no such intention; but in the present political situation this is precisely the effect of his arguments, whether he wanted it or not.
Bernstein was not striving for social peace (or so he said); but the bourgeoisie rightly understood that this is what his arguments implied. And look at the Cadet press here in Russia. It is praising Plekhanov and, regardless of his wishes, is drawing its own deductions from what he says. In yesterday’s Duma (No. 22), Mr. Kotlyarevsky argued that all “class struggle and class hatred” were an obstacle to the cause of national liberation. He drew a parallel between the struggle that Volna is conducting and the struggle of the Guesdists against the Jaurèsists, of Fern against Turati, and of Kautsky against Bernstein. He expressed fear that “this preaching of class hatred that is now making itself heard in Russia, by undermining the solidarity of the various social groups that is so essential for joint political action, may cut away [mark this! I the ground for the activities of any sort of properly constituted popular representative body”. “Is not this [class hatred] sapping the very spirit of constitutionalism?”
In today’s Svoboda i Kultura (No. 7), Mr. Struve be wails the fact that the Social-Democrats “are throwing liberty to be rent asunder by the furies of class strife”, that they have “a biassed and morbid craze for the ideas of the class struggle” (p. 458), that “political peace [recall the words “social peace” uttered by the European bourgeoisie!] is making entirely new claims upon us” (p. 514). The bourgeoisie understands perfectly well that Plekhanov’s ideas foster false hopes of “political peace” and in practice serve to blunt all class strife and all class struggle. Like the bird in the fable, Comrade Plekhanov was caught in the snare by only one tiny claw, but the whole “birdie” now finds itself entirely in Mr. Struve’s cage, so far as present-day politics are concerned.
“Abuse is not criticism,” writes Comrade Plekhanov. “Criticism really develops the mind, whereas abuse obscures it. Take the abusive term ’treachery’. We shout so often about the treachery of the bourgeoisie that when it does ’betray’, that is, when it makes peace with the bureaucracy, and it becomes really necessary for us to shout about this from the house-tops, our cries will no longer have the desired effect, and we shall meet with the same fate as the boy who shouted, ’Wolf! Wolf!’, when there was no wolf.”
What a beautiful specimen of Russian Bernsteinianism is this little fragment of Plekhanov’s reasoning!
First, see how clear it is that Comrade Plekhanov has not a leg to stand on. In November 1905, he wrote in Dnevnik, No. 3: “...we have had a lot of shouting lately about the bourgeoisie having betrayed something or other [!]. But what can the bourgeoisie have betrayed? At all events, not the revolution, for it has never served the idea of revolution.”
As you see, in November 1905 Comrade Plekhanov did not even understand what the bourgeoisie could betray. Now he does. He not only believes that the bourgeoisie can betray something, but holds that it actually will betray. Within six months Comrade Plekhanov has changed his mind. First he said that the bourgeoisie could not betray anything. Now he says that it actually will betray, that is, will make peace with the bureaucracy.
We should have been very pleased with Comrade Plekhanov’s progress, had his views in other respects not remained just as changeable. Treachery is an abusive term, he says. This opinion is not new. It is the opinion held by every liberal bourgeois. The Cadets are dinning into the ears of the Russian public in thousands of newspaper articles that this talk about the “treachery” of the bourgeoisie is merely the abusive language of the “wild” Bolsheviks. Now the bourgeoisie has found a new ally on this issue. Comrade Plekhanov has also become convinced that “treachery” is an “abusive term”.
Just as it was necessary at one time to repeat and reiterate the ABC of Marxism to counter Bernstein, so it is necessary to do so now to counter Plekhanov. He is greatly mistaken. “Treachery” is not “an abusive term”; it is the only scientifically and politically correct term with which to express the actual facts about, and the actual aspirations of, the bourgeoisie. The word “treachery” expresses the same idea as the phrase “striking a bargain”. Plekhanov himself cannot help admitting this, for he identifies treachery with reconciliation with the bureaucracy. And now see what the “wild” Volna has said about the phrase “striking a bargain”.
“But what, in substance, are the bargains struck by the Cadets?” we read in Volna, No. 13. “Not personal acts of treachery, of course. Such a crude opinion is utterly alien to Marxism. The substance of the bargains is (and is only) that the Cadets don’t abandon, and don’t want to abandon, their stand for preserving the old regime and for obeying the commands of this regime.”
Thus the essence of treachery, or of striking bargains, is not personal acts of treachery. Treachery, or striking bargains, only means that the party of “people’s” (read “bourgeois”) freedom is striving to keep the old autocracy in power, to induce it to share power with the bourgeoisie.
The party of “people’s freedom” is betraying people’s freedom just because it is surrendering a large share of the people’s rights and the people’s power to the representatives of the old authorities. Comrade Plekhanov’s unwillingness to understand this simple truth is quite monstrous. He is making out that the bourgeoisie in Russia has not yet betrayed anything, that it will do so only in the future.
This is total incomprehension of the very essence of treachery and bargains.
The bourgeoisie and the Cadets have betrayed freedom and made peace with the bureaucracy a thousand times. What is the programme of the Constitutional-Democratic Party? Does it represent a certain political step taken by the bourgeoisie? Undoubtedly it does. But this programme is precisely a programme of treachery, of striking bargains! And every political step the Cadets take is, in one way or another, a step in the fulfilment of this programme. Trubetskoi’s speech in the summer of 1905, the Cadets’ hedging on the issue of the four-point system and the Draconian Freedom of the Press Bill, are all steps taken by the liberal bourgeoisie in fulfilment of this programme of treachery.
As Comrade Plekhanov sees it, the bourgeoisie cannot be accused of treachery unless it takes some new special step. This is not true. If the bourgeoisie, and the Cadets in particular, continue doing what they have been doing so far, the sum-total of all their actions will produce the most complete picture of treachery. The essence of present-day Social-Democratic opportunism is precisely failure to understand this.
If the philistine dreams of the Cadets come true, if the “peaceful pressure” of the Duma and of “public opinion” compels the government to make minor concessions, if the Council of State is prepared to yield a little—as it is advised to do by Mr. Khomyakov, a member of the Council, whose plans the Cadet newspaper Duma reported yesterday—if the old government reorganises the Ministry and gives several comfortable seats in it to the Right Cadets, and so forth, the result, in the long run, will be precisely “reconciliation” between the Cadets and the bureaucracy. The sum and substance of Plekhanov’s mistake is that he thinks that the path of “treachery” is, or will be, a “new” path for our bourgeoisie, whereas it is really a continuation of its old path that constitutes the “corpus delicti” of its treachery, to use a legal term.
When the bourgeoisie does “actually” betray, says Plekhanov, nobody will believe us when we raise a cry about it, because everybody will have become too accustomed to the word “treachery”.
What infinite political naïveté! The whole policy of Social-Democracy is to light up the path that lies ahead before the masses of the people. We hold aloft the torch of Marxism and show, by every step the various classes take, by every political and economic event, that life confirms our doctrines. As capitalism develops, and as the political struggle becomes more acute, larger and larger sections of the people become convinced by what we say and by this factual (or historical) confirmation of what we say. At present, let us say, hundreds of thousands of men and women in Russia are convinced that our appraisal of the Cadets is correct. If the revolution develops fast, or takes a sharp turn towards an important deal between the Cadets and the autocracy, millions and even tens of millions will be convinced that we are right.
Therefore it is the greatest absurdity to say that later on people will not believe us when we raise a cry about treachery, because we are shouting about it too often now. Comrade Plekhanov is vainly trying to cover up this absurdity by arguments that elderly spinsters, dames de classe and the like, usually produce for the benefit of high-school girls. “Criticism must be well founded,” he tells us for our edification.
Both new and clever. Your criticism too, Comrade Plekhanov, should be well founded. As it happens, you do not quote a single fact, or a single important example, to prove that our criticism of the Cadets is unfounded; by your general arguments, however, you have sown a number of unfounded opinions in the minds of your readers! Lust imagine, you are reducing the concept of “treachery” to that of a term of abuse!
Then there is this sentence. “In our ranks, the realisation of this antithesis [the antithesis of the interests of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat] has acquired, one may say, the rigidity of a prejudice.” What do you mean by our ranks”, Comrade Plekhanov? The ranks of the Russian philistines in Geneva? Or of the members of our Party, in general? But should not the broad ranks of the masses of the people also be borne in mind?
As a worker aptly remarked in Prizyv, Plekhanov judges “from afar”. The masses of proletarians and semi-proletarians have as yet no idea of either this general antithesis or the bourgeois character of the Cadets. The Cadet press just now is probably ten times as large as the Social-Democratic press. The Cadets are also steadily corrupting the minds of the people through the Cadet Duma and through all sorts of liberal institutions. One must indeed have lost all sense of reality to imagine that we are running ahead of events and of the needs of the masses by exposing the instability and treachery of the Cadets. On the contrary, in this matter we are lagging behind events and the needs of the masses! It would be far better, Comrade Plekhanov, if you wrote a popular and “well-founded” criticism of the Cadets: that would be more useful.
Let us now examine Plekhanov’s deductions concerning the Duma.
“Our government has already committed many unpardonable blunders,” he writes. “These blunders have brought it to the brink of an abyss, but they have not yet pushed it into the abyss. It will fall into the abyss when the Duma is dispersed.... The Duma is rousing even the most somnolent; it is pushing forward even the most backward; it is dispelling from the minds of the masses the last political illusions bequeathed by history.... The organic work of the Duma will have the most agitational effect.”
Examine these arguments closely. The government will fall when the Duma is dispersed. Let us admit this for argument’s sake. But why assume that the Duma will be dispersed if it engages solely in organic work? What is organic work? The work the Duma does within the law. The Duma submits Bills to the Council of State and interpellates the Ministers. The Council of State and the Ministers procrastinate and, as far as possible, smooth out all the conflicts that arise. Russkoye Gosudarstvo, the mouth piece of the Russian Government, long ago said: let the Duma be an opposition Duma, but not a revolutionary one. In other words: you may engage in organic work, but not a single step beyond that!
What sense would there be in dissolving the Duma for doing organic work?? And it never will be dissolved if it never takes a revolutionary, quite non-organic step, or if no movement flares up outside the Duma that will convert even a Cadet Duma into an obstacle to the govern ment. We think that there are far more reasons for such an assumption than for the bare statement that “the Duma will be dispersed”.
The dissolution of the Duma is not the only cause likely to bring about the fall of the government. The government may fall for other reasons; for the Duma is by no means the chief factor, nor the surest index of the movement. It will not fall of itself, but as a result of the vigorous action— of a third force (neither the government, nor the Duma). It is the duty of the Social-Democrats to explain that this action is inevitable; to explain the forms it is likely to assume, the character and class composition of the forces capable of carrying out such an “action”; to explain the conditions under which it can be successful, and so on and so forth. It is the Cadets, however, who are relentlessly fighting the Social-Democrats for doing this. Therefore one of the conditions for success in this work, and a guarantee that the masses will sympathise with it, is that the Cadets must be discredited.
Whoever talks about the government “falling” into the abyss and yet says that it is inopportune to criticise the Cadets and to accuse them of treachery, is utterly inconsistent. If I wanted to copy Plekhanov’s style, I would say: falling “into the abyss” is merely a figure of speech, it is a revolutionary phrase. Into whose hands will power pass? Can the workers and peasants permit power to pass to the Cadets, who would at once share it with the old autocracy? Is it not, therefore, particularly necessary to warn the people against the Cadets?
We think it is. We think that Plekhanov’s opportunism, his absolutely groundless opposition to tactics which expose the true nature of the Constitutional-Democratic Party, is hampering and damaging this necessary work of enlightening the masses about the Cadets.
In saying that constructive work in the Duma will have the must agitational effect, Plekhanov shows that he takes an extremely one-sided view of things. As we have already pointed out in Volna, the Mensheviks themselves put Plekhanov right on this point when they quite justifiably ridicule the prospect of the Duma “piling up a heap of laws”. So far Russia has been the country with the largest number of paper police laws. If the Duma spends all its time on “constructive” work, Russia will soon become the country with the largest number of paper radical laws. It is the greatest pedantry to imagine that the agitational effect of these laws or Bills will be in direct proportion to their length and number. To think so, one must have forgotten the example of the Frankfurt Parliament, which very zealously engaged in “constructive work” and, as Plekhanov does now, imagined that it was constructive work that had the most agitational effect. To think so, one must he blind to what is already going on in Russia: one must be blind to the signs that the public is growing weary of the endless blather of Cadet speeches in the Duma, blind to the impression that is being created by the Cadets’ “Draconian” Bills and their lame excuses in justifying themselves for introducing them; one must be blind to the Cadets’ infinitely loathsome, philistine fear of the new wave that is approaching, of the inevitable new struggle, of what Plekhanov has called “falling into the abyss”. Exposing the Cadets, Comrade Plekhanov, means preparing the minds of the masses of the people for this fall, preparing them to take an active part in bringing it about, to keep the Cadets away from the government “pie” when the fall comes; it means making bold and vigorous preparations for it.
The Duma is rousing the people; the Duma is dispelling the last illusions, we are told. True. But the “Duma” is doing this only to the extent that we are exposing the timidity and instability of the Cadet Duma, only to the extent that we are explaining the facts about the Duma that indicate the dispelling of illusions. The Cadets are not doing this. They are trying to counteract it. They are spreading constitutional illusions. Zubatovism also roused the workers, also exposed illusions; but it did this only to the extent that we combated the corruption of the minds of the people by Zubatovism. And let no one try to attempt to refute this argument by stating that the Duma is not Zubatovism. Comparing things does not mean identifying them. Show me a Cadet newspaper, or an important political statement by the Cadets, which does not contain elements of the political corruption of the minds of the people.
That is what Comrade Plekhanov forgets when he declares majestically and portentously: “This is the meaning of all philosophy: all that contributes to the political education of the people is good; all that hinders it is bad.” Every thing else is prejudice, scholasticism.
Yes, yes, a certain wing of Social-Democracy is indeed slipping into hopeless scholasticism. But which wing, the Right or the Left? Can one imagine anything more pedantic, lifeless and truly scholastic than reducing the tactics of the proletariat in a period of revolution to the task of politically educating the people? Where, then, is the border line between the Social-Democratic class struggle and the struggle of a common or garden bourgeois “uplifter”? Revolution is in full swing, different classes are coming to the forefront, the masses have set about making history, bourgeois parties of different shades are arising, the complicated political crisis is becoming more acute, the struggle is entering a new stage for which the ground was prepared by the unusually rich crop of events and experience of 1905— and all this is reduced to one thing: the political education of the people! Truly, our dame de classe has made a brilliant discovery, Truly, a wonderful “key” to all the concrete problems of politics and, moreover, a key that any Cadet, and even the Party of Democratic Reforms, and even Heyden, would accept in full, would clutch at with both hands. Yes, this is exactly the “broad” criterion we need, this is what will rally and unite the classes, and not sow hatred and strife. Precisely! Bravo, Plekhanov—say all these good people. This is the “solution” that will certainly obscure, or force into the background, that new “period of madness”, the new “whirlwind” which the bourgeois dreads so much. No whirlwinds—then no cataclysms, Comrade Plekhanov, be consistent: no abysses either! The political education of the people—that is our banner, that is the meaning of all philosophy!
Comrade Plekhanov has wholly and completely taken on the likeness of that average German Cadet in the Frankfurt Parliament. Oh, how many matchless speeches these windbags delivered on the political consciousness of the people! How many magnificent “constructive” laws they drafted for this purpose! And how nobly they protested when they were dispersed after they had bored the people to death and had lost all revolutionary importance.
We are told that the Russian revolution goes deeper, its tide is rising, it will not be stopped at the dam of the Cadet Duma, Cadet phrase-mongering, Cadet timidity, and Cadet Draconian Bills. Yes, gentlemen, that is absolutely true: the Russian revolution is broader, mightier and deeper. Its tide is rising. It is sweeping on over the Cadets. And we revolutionary Social-Democrats express this deeper movement, we are striving to explain this loftier task to the workers and peasants, we are helping them, as best we can, to rise above the Cadet dam.
 Comrade Plekhanov also forgets to put a comma here, or to leave out time word “other”, i.e., he himself makes the same slip that he so sternly admonishes our comrade for!—Lenin
 We know neither the author of the article in Kolokol, nor the editors, nor the trend of this Social-Democratic newspaper. We are here concerned with the general ideas underlying Plekhanov’s “criticism” and not specifically with his polemics with Kolokol.—Lenin
 See present edition, Vol. 9, pp. 15-140.—Ed.
 See pp. 292-93 of this volume—Ed.
 See pp. 157-58 of this volume.—Ed.
 See p. 405 of this volume.—Ed.
 See pp. 450-51 of this volume.—Ed.
 Kolokol (The Bell)—a legal Social-Democratic daily published in Poltava, Ukraine, from January 18 (31) to June 8 (21), 1906. Most of its contributors were Mensheviks.
 Lavrov, P. L. (1823-1900)—Russian sociologist and publicist, noted ideologist of Narodism.
 See Karl Marx’s article “The Communism of the Paper Rheinischer Beobachter” (Marx and Engels, On Religion, Moscow, 1957, pp. 81-86).
 See Frederick Engels, “Marx and the Neue Rheinisehe Zeitung” (Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, pp. 328-37); Frederick Engels, “Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany”. VII. “The Frankfort National Assembly”. New York Daily Tribune, 1852; Articles from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (Marx, Engels, Werke, Bd. 5, Berlin, 1959).
 See Note 108.
 Prince Trubetskoi, S. N. (1862-1905)—a liberal advocating a moderate constitution. In June 1905, be addressed a policy speech to Nicholas II as a member of a Zemstvo deputation sent to the tsar.
 Prizyv (The Call)—a popular newspaper published in St: Peters burg from January 15 (28) to June 15 (28), 1906. From the end of March onwards its contributors included Bolsheviks.