V. I.   Lenin

The German Social-Democrats on the Cadets

Published: Vperyod, No. 5, May 81, 1000. Published according to the Vperyod text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 494-498.
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 liberal-bourgeois press throughout Russia is doing its utmost to convince its readers that the Russian Social-Democratic “Bolsheviks” have nothing in common with international Social-Democracy. They are anarchists, if you please, rebels, conspirators. They still have a lot to learn from the German Social-Democrats. They ought to recognise that the “parliamentary” path is the main path, as the German Social-Democrats have done. This and similar stuff can be read in the columns of dozens of Cadet news papers.

The open political struggle is still a novelty for the Russian public. The Russian public does not yet know that it is the common trick of the bourgeoisie in all countries to assert that the socialists in their particular countries are rascals, rebels, and so forth, whereas the socialists in neighbouring countries are “reasonable” people. The French bourgeoisie abuses Jaurès and praises Bebel. The German bourgeoisie abuses Bebel and praises Jaurès. The Russian bourgeoisie abuses the Russian Social-Democrats and praises the German Social-Democrats. It is an old, old trick!

But here are the facts. Vorwärts (Forward), the Central Organ of the German Social-Democratic Party—which we get very rarely, thanks to the “zeal” of the Russian police censors—recently published two articles entitled “The Duma and the Cadets”. The editors not only published these “Letters from Russia” as leading articles, but even wrote a comment, stating that they contained “a true description of the position of the Cadets in the Russian revolutionary movement”.

Let us see the assessment of the Cadets that the Central Organ of the German Social-Democratic Party regards as a true one. We hope our readers will forgive us for quoting these lengthy excerpts, but Russian liberal newspaper hacks must be taught once and for all to stop inventing disagreements between the Russian and the German Social-Democrats.

Until quite recently,” we read in the article “The Duma and the Cadets”, “nothing was heard about the Cadets. They were not to be found where blood was flowing and bullets flying. They were not to be found where the masses of the people, inspired by the heroism of the revolutionary struggle, were sacrificing their lives, determined to die or win under the banner of proletarian freedom. These realist politicians were too statesmanlike, too far-sighted,to allow themselves to be carried away by the mass movement headed by ’reprobates’, dreamers and revolutionary ’fanatics’. These cool-headed, sapient phrase-mongers and tinsel knights of pseudo-liberalism, sat quietly by their firesides. They shook their heads disapprovingly, fearing lest the revolution should go too far and shake the ancient and sacred pillars of bourgeois life, property, political decorum and order.

The Cadets have long shown their versatility in the flunkey’s art. At the time of the Bulygin Duma they already dreamed of throwing a bridge between the as yet ’innocent’ Witte and liberalism, which was brazenly flirting with the foreign stock exchanges. Generally speaking, the stock exchange is the weak spot of our Party of ’People’s Freedom’. Only a few days ago the Cadets were indignantly denying the accusation that they were conducting ’treacherous’ propaganda against the new loan of many million rubles. And this is quite understandable. When police tyranny was rampant, they tried to explain that it was called forth by the conduct of the democrats. When fires and riots organised by the camarilla were raging, they, with might and main, defend ed the throne and the altar[1] from the attacks of the socialists, who recognise nothing and deny and destroy everything.

Then came the celebrated boycott, the great October strike the bloody period of popular insurrections, civil war and mutiny among the armed forces on land and sea. The Cadets were swept away by the great, purifying tide.

Then, nothing was heard of the Cadets. The knights of the golden mean ran to cover. At best, they loudly protested and loudly complained; hut owing to the raging revolutionary storm, nobody heard them.

The reaction rendered the Cadets the greatest service. When the prisons were filled again, when the Russian fighters for freedom were again being packed off to a living death in exile, the Cadets found their opportunity. Their opponents on the left were gagged. The Cadets got to the newspapers; they were only slightly affected by the persecutions of the counter-revolution. Punitive expeditions were not sent against them. Their houses were not razed to the ground. Their children were not raped by Cossacks. The Wittes and Durnovos did not apply to   them their ’pacification’ measures. It was not against them that guns and machine guns artillery and infantry, the Navy and the Cossacks were turned. And so the Cadets came into the foreground. The battle of words began. Polemics took the place of revolution; and in this field the Cadets proved to be past-masters and matchless virtuosos. They first and foremost hurled themselves into the fray against the revolution and the revolutionaries; they reviled the socialists and slandered the workers’ party. They polemised against opponents who were gaged. They flung accusations against those who could neither answer nor defend themselves. But Russian liberalism was not content with this. Through the mouth of one of its most prominent leaders it declared that the entire heroic liberation movement in Russia was the work of its hands: that the fall of the autocracy stands to its credit. The Cadets insolently claimed the glory for the deeds in which the proletarians had shed their blood. They decked themselves with the shreds of the tattered scarlet banner and proclaimed liberalism the soul of the struggle for liberation, the liberator of the country from tyranny. And although the prisons remained overcrowded, and gallows continued to be erected, the Cadets were loud in self-praise and furiously denounced the turbulent, audacious and reckless revolutionaries.

The author then goes on to describe the legal status of our Duma, the law governing the Council of State and the part the Cadets played during the elections.

The dear Cadets passionately desired evolution instead of revolution, law and order instead of revolutionary anarchy and civil war.” But during the elections the people gave them a revolutionary mandate that was not at all to their liking.

Like the born diplomats and honest brokers they are, they consoled themselves with the hope of being able to subdue the revolution, revive the stock exchange, soften the rigour of the autocratic regime, reconcile all antagonisms and eliminate all conflicts. They called for peace, but reality brought something different. They came before the electors as ’Constitutional-Democrats’, but they were elected as an opposition party, as the sole or chief opposition party. They strove for a compromise, but they were given a revolutionary mandate. They made fine speeches, but they were sent to fight; they were compelled to give a pledge, and they were promised every support, even to the extent of armed struggle.

Intoxicated with victory, carried away by revolutionary oratory during the election Campaign, finding themselves in the midst of revolutionary voters, the Cadets went further than they intended. They did not see that behind their hacks a new force had arisen that was pushing them into the fight.

The Cadets realised too late who had sent them to parliament, who bad given them such a categorically imperative mandate, who had imposed   upon them the role that they dreaded most of all, and which they tried to get out of with all their might. They had been sent by the Russian revolution to clear the road for a further advance, they had been sent by the Russian people who were using the Cadets as a battering-ram to make a new breach in the walls of the autocracy, the main strongholds of which will be captured later, not with the aid of the Cadets, but of the broad masses of the people.”

The Cadets were displeased to see revolutionary peasant deputies in the Duma who threatened to spoil their game. They had dreamt of a “unanimous Cadet Duma”. ’Then it would have been possible to shirk the revolutionary tasks somehow, to drown all real action in a flood of beautiful oratory.... It would have been possible to confine themselves to drafting resolutions and Bills and to obtaining—at most— a Cadet Ministry, consolidating a constitutional monarchy, subduing the revolution through minor concessions, dragging out all reforms to infinity, and at last reaching the goal: bourgeois-liberal parliamentarism.... Yes, all this would have been possible, had there been no peasants in the Duma!" And then the author goes on to describe, some times in positively rapturous terms, the revolutionary spirit of the peasant deputies in the Duma. “The revolution not only carried Cadets into the Duma, it also created a ’Mountain’, a ’Party of the Mountain’, which will not agree to compromise. The revolution is represented in the Duma, too."

Poor Cadets, poor Russian Girondists! They have fallen between the hammer and the anvil, between the bayonets of the government and the revolution of the proletariat and peasantry.

No wonder the Cadets have now begun shamefully to hide their scarlet trappings. No wonder they are now dropping their high-sounding slogans. No wonder they have now begun to talk about respecting the prerogatives of the old authority. The situation is becoming serious. The government is not in a joking mood, and will concede nothing unless it is compelled to. But neither is the revolution, which sent the Cadets to the Duma. It will never forgive the Cadets their treachery. It will have no mercy on the poltroons who pledged themselves to play a revolutionary role and funked it.

On the one side is absolutism, on the other revolution. What will the Cadets do?”

Thus ends the article with which the Central Organ of the German Social-Democratic Party has expressed its agree ment. These “reasonable” German Social-Democrats have put   the “Bolsheviks” frightfully to shame, haven’t they? Their opinion of the Cadets is totally different from ours, isn’t it? Our slogan—the revolution of the proletariat and peasantry—is nothing like theirs, is it?

Let our readers also consider whether we should find ourselves at odds with such people in our appraisal of a Cadet Ministry.

International revolutionary Social-Democracy in its attitude to absolutism and to the liberal bourgeoisie, is as united today as ever it was!


[1] In the German text quoted by Lenin, Vperyod left out the words Thron und Altar (throne and altar) because of censorship.

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