Proletary, No. 8, November 23, 1906.
Published according to the Proletary text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 307-319.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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At the All-Russian Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. the Mensheviks, with the aid of the Bundists, secured the adoption of a resolution permitting blocs with the Cadets. The Cadet press is jubilant, and is spreading the happy tidings to all ends of the earth, gently pushing the Mensheviks one step lower, one step further to the right. Elsewhere the reader will find the decisions of the conference, the dissenting opinion of the revolutionary Social-Democrats, and their draft election address. Here we shall attempt to outline the general and fundamental political significance of blocs with the Cadets.
Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 6, provides good material for such an outline, especially the editorial entitled “A Bloc of the Extreme Left”. We shall begin with one of the most characteristic passages in the article:
“We are told,” writes Sotsial-Demokrat, “that the Mensheviks, who had set out to push the whole Duma on to the revolutionary path, abandoned their position after the dissolution of the Duma and formed a bloc with the revolutionary parties and groups, which was expressed, firstly, in the issue of two joint manifestoes—to the army and to the peasantry—and, secondly, in the formation of a committee for co-ordinating action in view of the forthcoming strike. This reference to precedent is based on a great misunderstanding. In the instance quoted, our Party concluded with the other revolutionary parties and groups not a political bloc, but a fighting agreement, which we have always considered expedient and necessary.”
The italics are those of Sotsial-Demokrat.
...Not a political bloc, but a fighting agreement.... For the love of God. Menshevik comrades! This is not only nonsensical, it is positively illiterate. One of two things: either you mean by a bloc only parliamentary agreements, or you mean other agreements besides parliamentary agreements. If the first is the case—then a bloc is a fighting agreement for a parliamentary fight. If the second is the case—then a fighting agreement is a political bloc, because a “fight” without a political purpose is not a fight, but merely a brawl.
Comrades of the Central Committee! Watch your editors! You really must, because they are making us feel ashamed of Social-Democracy.
But perhaps this rigmarole presented to the reader in the organ of the Central Committee is simply a slip of the pen, an awkward expression?
Not at all. The Sotsial-Demokrat’s mistake was not the “howler” it committed; on the contrary, the howler arose out of the fundamental mistake that lies at the bottom of its whole argument and whole position. The meaningless combination of words “not a political bloc but a fighting agreement” is not fortuitous; it followed necessarily and inevitably from the basic “meaninglessness” of Menshevism, namely, its failure to understand that the parliamentary fight in Russia today is entirely subordinate, and most directly so, to the conditions and character of the fight out side of parliament. In other words: this one logical blunder expresses the Mensheviks’ general failure to understand the role and importance of the Duma in the present revolutionary situation.
We, of course, do not intend to copy the methods of the Mensheviks, and of their leader Plekhanov, in their polemics against us on the question of “fighting” and “politics”. We shall not reproach them, leaders of the Social-Democratic proletariat, for being capable of entering into a non-political fighting agreement.
We call attention to the following question: Why did our Mensheviks, after the dissolution of the Duma, have to form a bloc only with the revolutionary parties and groups? Certainly not because this had been advocated for a long time (purely out of hatred for the Mensheviks) by some anarcho-Blanquist named Lenin. Objective conditions compelled the Mensheviks, in spite of all their theories, to form precisely such a revolutionary anti-Cadet bloc. Whether the Mensheviks wanted it or not, and whether they realised it or not, the objective conditions were such that the dialectical development of the peaceful parliamentary fight in the First Duma converted it, in the course of a few days, into one that was altogether unpeaceful and non-parliamentary. The informal political bloc of which the Mensheviks were not aware (because of the Cadet blinkers on their eyes)— a bloc expressed in common aspirations, common immediate political efforts and common methods of struggle for immediate political aims—this unintentional “political bloc” was by the force of circumstances transformed into a “fighting agreement”. And our wiseacres were so dumbfounded by this unexpected turn of events, unforeseen in Plekhanov’s letters of the period of the First Duma, that they exclaimed: “This is not a political bloc, but a fighting agreement!”
The reason why your policy is no good at all, dear comrades, is that you have in mind agreements for that “fight” which is unreal, fictitious and of no decisive importance, and overlook the conditions of that “fight” which is being irresistibly brought to the fore by the whole course of the Russian revolution; the fight which arises even from conditions that at first sight seem to be the most peaceful, parliamentary and constitutional imaginable, and even from such conditions as those which the Rodichevs of the Duma exalted in their speeches about the dearly-beloved, blameless monarch.
You are committing the very error of which you groundlessly accuse the Bolsheviks. Your policy is not a fighting policy. Your fight is not a genuine political fight, but a sham constitutional fight; it is parliamentary cretinism. For the “fight” which circumstances may make necessary tomorrow you have one line of agreements; for “politics” you have another line of agreements. That is why you are no good either for “fights” or for “politics”, but only for the role of yes-men of the Cadets.
There is considerable controversy in our Party at the present time as to the meaning of the word “blocs”. Some say that a bloc, means a joint list of candidates; others deny this and say that it means a common platform. All these disputes are silly and scholastic. It does not make the slightest difference whether the narrower or the wider agreements are called blocs. The central issue is not whether wide or narrow agreements are permissible. Whoever thinks so is immersing himself in petty and trivial parliamentary technique and forgetting the political substance of that technique. The central issue is: on what lines should the socialist proletariat enter into agreements, with the bourgeoisie, which, generally speaking, are inevitable in the course of a bourgeois revolution. The Bolsheviks may differ among themselves in regard to details, e.g., whether electoral agreements are necessary with this or that party of the revolutionary bourgeoisie, but that is not the central issue between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. The central issue remains the same: should the socialist proletariat in a bourgeois revolution follow in the wake of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie, or should it march in front of the revolutionary-democratic bourgeoisie.
The article “A Bloc of the Extreme Left” gives numerous instances of how the ideas of the Mensheviks are side-tracked from the political essence of the disagreement to petty trifles. The author of the article himself describes (p. 2, col. 3) both a common platform and a joint list as bloc tactics. At the same time he asserts that we are advocating a “bloc” with the Trudoviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, while the Mensheviks advocate, not a bloc, but only “partial agreements” with the Cadets. But this is childishness, my dear comrades, and not argument!
Compare the Menshevik resolution adopted by the All-Russian Conference with the Bolshevik resolution. The latter imposes stricter conditions for agreements with the Socialist-Revolutionaries than the former does for agreements with the Cadets. This is indisputable, for, in the first place, the Bolsheviks permit agreements only with parties which arc fighting for a republic and which recognise the necessity of an armed uprising, whereas the Mensheviks permit agreements with “democratic opposition parties” generally. Thus, the Bolsheviks defined the term “revolutionary bourgeoisie” by means of clear political characteristics, whereas the Mensheviks, instead of a political definition, presented merely a technical parliamentary catchword. A republic and an armed uprising are definite political categories. Opposition is a purely parliamentary term. This term is so vague that it can include the Octobrists, and the Party of Peaceful Renovation, and, in fact, all who are dissatisfied with the government. True, the addition of the word “democratic” introduces a political element, but it is indefinite. It is supposed to refer to the Cadets but this is exactly where it is wrong. To apply the term “democratic” to a monarchist party, to a party which accepts an Upper Chamber, proposed repressive laws against public meetings and the press and deleted from the reply to the address from the throne the demand for direct and equal suffrage by secret ballot, to a party which opposed the formation of land committees elected by the whole people—means deceiving the people. This is a very strong expression, but it is just. The Mensheviks are deceiving the people about the democracy of the Cadets.
Secondly, the Bolsheviks permit agreements with the bourgeois republicans only as an “exception”. The Mensheviks do not demand that blocs with the Cadets should be only an exception.
Thirdly, the Bolsheviks absolutely forbid agreements in the workers’ curia (“with any other party”). The Mensheviks permit blocs in the workers’ curia as well, for they only forbid agreements with groups and parties which “do not adopt the standpoint of the proletarian class struggle”. Thus is no accident, for at the Conference there were some Mensheviks with proletarian class intuition, who opposed this stupid formula, but they were defeated by the Menshevik majority. The outcome was something very indefinite and nebulous, leaving plenty of scope for all sorts of adventurist moves. Moreover, the outcome was an idea that is altogether reprehensible for a Marxist, namely, that a party other than a Social-Democratic Party may be recognised as “adopting the standpoint of the proletarian class struggle”.
After this, how can one describe as other than childish, to say the least, the attempts to prove that the Bolsheviks permit a closer bloc with the republican bourgeoisie, i.e., the Socialist-Revolutionaries, than the Mensheviks permit with the monarchist bourgeoisie, i.e., the Cadets??
The absolutely false argument about closer or less close blocs serves to obscure the political question: with whom and for what purpose are blocs permissible. Take the “Draft Election Platform” published in No. 6 of Sotsial-Demokrat. This document is one of a mass of documents defining Menshevik policy which are proof of the existence of an ideological bloc between the Mensheviks and the Cadets. The resolution of the conference on the “amendments” required to this draft election platform clearly demonstrates this. Just think: a conference of Social-Democrats had to remind its Central Committee that it must not omit the slogan of a republic from an illegal publication; that it must not confine itself to vague platitudes about petitions and struggle, but must accurately name and characterise the different parties from the proletarian standpoint; that it must point to the need for an uprising and emphasise the class character of social-Democracy! Only some deep-seated abnormality, some fundamental error in the views held by the Central Committee could have made it necessary to remind the Central Committee of the Social-Democratic Party that it must emphasise the class character of the Party in its first election manifesto.
We do not know yet whether practical agreements with the Cadets will be concluded, or what their scope will be; but an ideological agreement, an ideological bloc, already exists: in the draft election platform the difference between the standpoint of the proletariat and that of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie is glossed over. The Bolshevik draft election address, on the contrary, not only points out this difference, but also the difference between the standpoint of the proletariat and that of the class of small proprietors.
It is these principles and ideas that must be brought to the fore in the question of election blocs. It is useless for the Mensheviks to attempt to justify themselves by saying: we shall be independent throughout the election campaign, which we shall in no way curtail, and we shall put our candidates in the Cadets’ list only at the last minute!
That is not true. We are sure, of course, that the best of the Mensheviks sincerely desire it. But it is not their desires that count, however—it is the objective conditions of the present political struggle. And these conditions are such that every step the Mensheviks take in their election campaign is already tainted by Cadetism, is already marked by obscuring the Social-Democratic point of view. We have demonstrated this by the example of the draft election platform and shall now do so by a number of other documents and arguments.
The Mensheviks’ main argument is the Black-Hundred danger. The first and fundamental flaw in this argument is that the Black-Hundred danger cannot be combated by Cadet tactics and a Cadet policy. The essence of this policy lies in reconciliation with tsarism, that is, with the Black-Hundred danger. The first Duma sufficiently demonstrated that the Cadets do not combat the Black-Hundred danger, but make incredibly despicable speeches about the innocence and blamelessness of the monarch, the known leader of the Black Hundreds. Therefore, by helping to elect Cadets to the Duma, the Mensheviks are not only failing to combat the Black-Hundred danger, but are hoodwinking the people, are obscuring the real significance of the Black-Hundred danger. Combating the Black-Hundred danger by helping to elect the Cadets to the Duma is like combating pogroms by means of the speech delivered by the lackey Rodichev: “It is presumption to hold the monarch responsible for the pogrom.”
The second flaw in this stock argument is that it means that the Social-Democrats tacitly surrender hegemony in the democratic struggle to the Cadets. In the event of a split vote that secures the victory of a Black Hundred, why should we be blamed for not having voted for the Cadet, and not the Cadets for not having voted for us?
“We are in a minority,” answer the Mensheviks, in a spirit of Christian humility. “The Cadets are more numerous. You cannot expect the Cadets to declare themselves revolutionaries.”
Yes! But that is no reason why Social-Democrats should declare themselves Cadets. The Social-Democrats have not had, and could riot have had, a majority over the bourgeois democrats anywhere in the world where the outcome of the bourgeois revolution was indecisive. But everywhere, in all countries, the first independent entry of the Social-Democrats in an election campaign has been met by the howling and barking of the liberals, accusing the socialists of wanting to let the Black Hundreds in.
We are therefore quite undisturbed by the usual Menshevik cries that the Bolsheviks are letting the Black Hundreds in. All liberals have shouted this to all socialists. By refusing to fight the Cadets you are leaving under the ideological influence of the Cadets masses of proletarians and semi proletarians who are capable of following the lead of the Social-Democrats. Now or later, unless you cease to be socialists, you will have to fight independently, in spite of the Black-Hundred danger. And it is easier and more necessary to take the right step now than it will be later on. In the elections to the Third Duma (if it is convoked after the Second Duma) it will be even more difficult for you to dissolve the bloc with the Cadets, you will be still more entangled in unnatural relations with the betrayers of the revolution. But the real Black-Hundred danger, we repeat, lies not in the Black Hundreds obtaining seats in the Duma, but in pogroms and military courts; and you are making it more difficult for the people to fight this real danger by putting Cadet blinkers on their eyes.
The third flaw in this stock argument is its inaccurate appraisal of the Duma and its role. In that delightful article “A Bloc of the Extreme Left”, the Mensheviks had to acknowledge, contrary to all the assertions they usually make, that the central issue lies not in technical agreements, hut in the radical political difference between two tactics.
In this article we read the following:
“The tactics of a ’bloc’ are consciously or unconsciously directed towards the formation in the next Duma of a compact revolutionary minority of a faded Social-Democratic hue, a minority that would wage systematic war on the Duma majority as well as on the government, and, at a certain moment, would overthrow the Duma and proclaim itself a provisional government. The tactics of partial agreements are directed towards making use, as far as possible, of the Duma as a whole, i. e., the Duma majority, for the purpose of fighting the autocratic regime while retaining all the time in the Duma the extreme position of an independent Social-Democratic Group.”
As regards the “faded hue” we have already shown that it is the Mensheviks who are to blame for this—by their conduct in the elections in the workers’ curia, by their wider latitude for blocs, and by their ideological substitution of Cadetism for Social-Democracy. As for “proclaiming” a provisional government, the Mensheviks’ assertion is equally ridiculous, for they forget that it is not a matter of proclaiming, but of the whole course and of the success of the uprising. A provisional government which is not the organ of an uprising is an empty phrase, or a senseless adventure.
But on the central issue, the Mensheviks inadvertently blurted out the real truth in the above-quoted passage. Indeed, the whole thing boils down to this: shall we or shall we not sacrifice the independence of the Social-Democratic election campaign for the sake of a “solid” liberal Duma (“the Duma as a whole”)? And indeed, the most important thing for the Bolsheviks is complete independence in the election campaign and the completely (not semi-Cadet) Social-Democratic character of our policy and of our Duma Group. But for the Mensheviks the most important thing is a solid Cadet Duma with a large number of Social-Democrats elected as semi-Cadets! Two types of Duma: 200 Black Hundreds, 280 Cadets and 20 Social-Democrats; or 400 Cadets and 100 Social-Democrats. We prefer the first type, and we think it is childish to imagine that the elimination of the Black Hundreds from the Duma means the elimination of the Black-Hundred danger.
Everywhere we have a single policy: in the election fight, in the fight in the Duma, and in the fight in the streets—the policy of the armed struggle. Everywhere our policy is: the Social-Democrats with the revolutionary bourgeoisie against the Cadet traitors. The Mensheviks, however, wage their “Duma” fight in alliance with the Cadets (support for the Duma as a whole and a Cadet Cabinet); but in the event of an uprising they will change their policy and conclude “not a political bloc, but a fighting agreement”. Therefore, the Bolshevik was quite right who remarked at the conference: “By supporting blocs with the Cadets, the Bundists have smuggled in support for a Cadet Cabinet.”
The above quotation excellently confirms the fact that blocs with the Cadets convert into empty phrases all the fine words in the Menshevik resolution on slogans in the election campaign. For example: “to organise the forces of the revolution in the Duma” (is it not rather to organise an appendage to the Cadets by disorganising the actual forces of the revolution?); “to expose the impotence of the Duma” (is it not rather to conceal from the masses the impotence of the Cadets?); “to explain to the masses that hopes of a peaceful issue of the struggle are illusory” (is it not rather to strengthen among the masses the influence of the Cadet Party, which is fostering illusions?).
And the Cadet press has perfectly understood the political significance of Menshevik-Cadet blocs. We said above: either in the rear of the liberals or in front of the revolutionaries. In support of this we shall cite our political press.
Can you find any serious or mass confirmation of the assertion that the Bolsheviks are following in the wake of the bourgeois revolutionaries and are dependent on them? It is ridiculous even to speak of such a thing. The whole Russian press clearly shows, and all the enemies of the revolutionaries admit, that it is the Bolsheviks who are pursuing an independent political line, and are winning over various groups and the best elements of the bourgeois revolutionaries.
But what about the bourgeois opportunists? They own a press ten times larger than that of the Social-Democrats and the Socialist-Revolutionaries put together. And they are pursuing an independent political line, converting the Mensheviks and Popular Socialists into mere yes-men.
The whole Cadet press quotes only those parts of the Menshevik resolutions which refer to blocs; it omits “the impotence of the Duma”, “the organisation of the forces of the revolution in the Duma”, and other things. The Cadets not only omit these things, they openly rail against them, now talking about the “phrase-mongering” or the “inconsistency” of the Mensheviks, now about the “inconsistency of the Menshevik slogans”, and at another time about “the baneful influence of the Bolsheviks over the Mensheviks”.
What does this mean? It means that, whether we like it or not, and in spite of the wishes of the better sort of Mensheviks, political life absorbs their Cadet deeds and rejects their revolutionary phrases.
The Cadet coolly accepts the help of the Mensheviks, slaps Plekhanov on the back for his advocacy of blocs, and at the same time shouts contemptuously and rudely, like a merchant who has grown fat on ill-gotten gains: Not enough, Menshevik gentlemen! There must also be an ideological understanding! (See the article in Tovarishch on Plekhanov’s letter.) Not enough, Menshevik gentlemen, you must also stop your polemic, or at any rate change its tone! (See the leading article in the Left-Cadet Vek on the resolutions of our Conference.) Not to mention Rech, which simply snubbed the Mensheviks who are yearning for the Cadets by bluntly declaring: “We shall go into the Duma to legislate”, not to make a revolution!
Poor Mensheviks, poor Plekhanov! Their love letters to the Cadets were read with pleasure, but so far they are not being admitted further than the antechamber.
Read Plekhanov’s letter in the bourgeois-Cadet newspaper Tovarishch. How joyfully he was greeted by Mr. Prokopovich and Madame Kuskova, the very people whom Plekhanov, in 1900, drove out of the Social-Democratic Party for at tempting its bourgeois corruption. Now Plekhanov has accepted the tactics of the famous Credo of Prokopovich and Kuskova; and these followers of Bernstein are impudently blowing kisses to him and shouting: We bourgeois democrats have always said this!
And in order to be admitted to the antechamber of the Cadets, Plekhanov had publicly to withdraw the statements he made bat yesterday.
Here are the facts.
In Dnevnik, No. 6, of July 1906, after the dissolution of the Duma Plekhanov wrote that the parties that are participating in the movement must come to an understanding. To be able to strike together, they must first come to an agreement. “The parties hostile to our old regime must ... come to an agreement about what is to he the main idea in this propaganda. After the dissolution of the Duma the only idea that can serve this purpose is the idea of a constituent assembly....”
“Only” the idea of a constituent assembly. Such was Plekhanov’s plan for a political bloc and for a fighting agreement in July 1906.
Five months later, in November 1906, Plekhanov changes his policy on agreements. Why? Has there been any change since then in the relations between the parties which demand a constituent assembly and those which do not?
It is generally admitted that since then the Cadets have shifted still further to the right. And Plekhanov goes to the Cadet press but says nothing about the constituent assembly; for it is forbidden to speak about this in liberal antechambers.
Is it not clear that this Social-Democrat has slipped? But this is not all. In the same No. 6 of Dnevnik, Plekhanov referred directly to the Cadets. At that time (that was such a long time ago!) Plekhanov explained the selfish class character of the Cadets’ distrust towards the idea of a constituent assembly. Plekhanov at that time wrote about the Cadets literally as follows:
“Whoever renounces the propaganda of this idea [a constituent assembly] on whatever pretext will clearly indicate that he is not really seeking a worthy answer to the actions of Stolypin & Co., that he, though reluctantly, is becoming reconciled to these actions, that he is rebelling against them only in words, only for the sake of appearances” (italics ours).
Having now gone over to a Cadet newspaper, Plekhanov began his advocacy of an election bloc by establishing an ideological bloc. In the Cadet newspaper Plekhanov did not want to tell the people that the Cadets are becoming reconciled to the Stolypin gang, that they are rebelling only for the sake of appearances.
Why did Plekhanov not want to repeat in November 1906 what he said in July 1906?
This, then, is what “technical” blocs with the Cadets mean, and that is why we are waging a relentless struggle against Social-Democrats who sanction such blocs.
Is not your joy premature, gentlemen of the Cadet Party? Social-Democrats will vote in the elections without blocs in the Caucasus, in the Urals, in Poland, in the Lettish Territory, in the Moscow Central Region, and probably in St. Petersburg.
No blocs with the Cadets! No conciliation with those who are becoming reconciled to the Stolypin gang!
 See pp. 299-801 of this volume.—Ed.
 And, as luck would have it, we now have the curious situation that the Mensheviks, who have always reproached us with contrasting “fighting” to “politics”, have themselves based their entire argument on this meaningless contrast.—Lenin
 This is not the first time the Mensheviks have made this mistake. They made the same mistake in the famous Duma declaration of the R.S.D.L.P. They accused the Bolsheviks of Socialist-Revolutionary tendencies, while they themselves obliterated the differences between the views of the Social-Democrats and those of the Trudoviks to such an extent that the Socialist-Revolutionary newspapers of the Duma period called the Duma declaration of the Social-Democrats a plagiary of Socialist-Revolutionary ideas! In our counter-draft of the Duma declaration, on the contrary, the difference between us and the petty bourgeois was clearly shown.—Lenin
 The Cadets themselves are beginning to acknowledge that in the elections they are threatened by a danger from the Left (the exact words used by Rech in a report on the St. Petersburg Gubernia). By their outcry against the Black-Hundred danger, the Cadets are leading the Mensheviks by the nose in order to avert the danger from the Left!!—Lenin
 This refers to G. V. Plekhanov’s “Letters on Tactics and Tactlessness”, which defined Menshevik tactics in regard to the State Duma.
 The Bolshevik draft of the Duma declaration was written by Lenin; he quotes it in the article “Concerning the Declaration of Our Duma Group” (see pp. 33-36 of this volume).
 See pp. 448-49 of this volume.