Proletary,No. 6, October 29, 1906.
Published according to the Proletarytext.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 241-245.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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We have already made it clear more than once that the autocracy’s struggle against the proletarian and peasant revolution inevitably hits the liberal opposition too. Once the proletariat is silent, the pogrom-mongers’ government will certainly not miss the opportunity to strangle the Cadets as well. It is now engaged in throttling the Peaceful Renovators. At present it is looking none too kindly even on the Octobrists. And if—thanks to the military courts— even the crack of Brownings, the bursting of bombs and the classical command: “Hands up!” cease for a while, it will be no guarantee, of course, that the Cadets and the Peaceful Renovators will, at last, reach their longed for peaceful haven of legal, constitutional struggle.
One might have thought that the tide of frantic reaction would have swept the leaders of the liberal opposition far to the left. The dissolution of the Duma has completely undermined constitutional illusions. There is not a member on the staff of Tovarishch or Stolichnaya Pochta who could fail to see that now. The suppression of the Cadet press (the whole of the provincial and a considerable part of the metropolitan press), the banning of the congress, the refusal to legalise the party, the prosecution of all the signatories of the Vyborg Manifesto, should, one would think, have forced the Cadets to abandon the policy of organising public opinion and to adopt, at last, the policy of organising the social forces. Furthermore, one would think that if the Cadet leaders lack the heroic determination proudly to go under ground, the whole following would there and then abandon such leaders.
The Cadet Congress has shown these calculations to be wrong. For the time being, at any rate. The Congress has sanctioned, though reluctantly, the policy of “marking time” or, more precisely, “don’t move”, proposed by the Central Committee. The Congress adopted a resolution on organising the social forces, but this was a purely platonic resolution, committing no one to anything, not even giving any indication of the purpose for which such forces could and should be organised. The Congress passed—by a relatively slight majority, it is true—the celebrated Point 4 of the resolution on tactics, which proclaims the party’s passive resistance to the passive resistance that is growing spontaneously among the masses of the people and is recommended by the Vyborg Manifesto. The Congress closed as the congress of the single and indivisible “party of people’s freedom”.
Nor, undoubtedly, could it have been different. The hour has not yet struck for a split in the Cadet Party. While class contradictions have already irrevocably driven large sections of the big bourgeoisie into the camp of open counter revolution, they have not yet caused sufficient disintegration in the wide sections of the middle and petty bourgeoisie who voted for the Cadets at the elections. So far, there are no objective signs that the lower middle class in the provinces has been infected with that bourgeois dread of revolution which has already possessed the “gallows humanists” of the Guchkov type.
But this disintegration is progressing rapidly. And the Cadet leaders themselves are not sure, of course, whether their motley “people’s freedom” bloc will stand the test of the social and political struggle, which is growing more and more acute.
The Russian revolution is certainly bound to reach that fatal boundary line, beyond which the break-up of this bloc will be absolutely inevitable. That line will be reached and crossed when the vortex of proletarian and peasant uprising irrevocably draws into itself the broadest strata of the petty bourgeoisie and part of the middle urban bourgeoisie. Then, but only then, all that will actually remain of the huge Cadet bloc will be the propertied middle bourgeoisie, who were surely destined at their birth to share, in the long run, Mr. Guchkov’s bourgeois fears. Then the spectre of national revolution which is still so potent at the present time, and which is preventing many people from properly appraising the truly gigantic constructive role of the class contradictions in the Russian revolution, will vanish. When this boundary line is reached, a huge political party basing itself on the organisation of public opinion will be a hopeless anachronism; while all the elements of the real mass movement, both on the left and on the right, will assign to force, naked physical force, that great, not only destructive but also constructive role, without which, of course, the real con summation of revolution is inconceivable. But where physical force comes into its sovereign rights there is no place for Cadet bourgeois hegemony. The whole history of our struggle bears witness to that fact; one need not be a prophet to predict for certain that the same thing will happen if we experience a new upsurge of the revolution. The Cadet is a “legitimate” participant in the division of the spoils of the revolution—but he is no more than that.
That is why, objectively, those Cadet leaders were right who proposed that the Vyborg Manifesto be regarded simply as a mistake committed in the heat of the moment since it directly calls for the adoption of the tactics of passive resistance. For considering the intensity of the struggle today there cannot be any mass passive resistance that will not immediately develop into an active offensive. Mr. Struve is quite right when he says that such a civilised method of struggle (as opposed, if you please, to the purely revolutionary, aggressive method) is appropriate only against a civilised, constitutional government. Who will doubt for a moment that the Stolypin gang will send out its punitive expeditions at the very first signs of a mass refusal to pay taxes, or a mass refusal to assign recruits for the army? Who will then stop the population from defending itself, from passing to an active armed offensive?
And the Vyborg Manifesto, even at the very moment it was being signed, in its purely Cadet interpretation, was at best only a threat to the government that this would happen, and not a practical slogan. In this case, the Milyukovs and Struves are really not to blame for the political simplicity of those provincial Cadets who mistook this manifesto for a practical slogan. The fate of the manifesto in the provinces bears witness to this. The intimidated press spoke very little and very obscurely about this fate, but what it did say proves, we think, that the party of “people’s freedom”, as a party, has worked hard to apply the principle of passive resistance proclaimed by that manifesto to the manifesto itself. That being the Case, the Congress could only endorse this standpoint of the Cadets. The minority of the Congress, which at first was inclined to make some fuss over this endorsement, finally surrendered and remained in the party.
On the other hand, we get news every day from the interior of the country that the idea of passive resistance has found a response among the mass of the people. Non-payment of taxes, refusal to assign recruits, and boycott of the authorities are beginning to become really practical slogans. No one is shutting his eyes to the enormous organisational defects of this growing movement. No one will deny that a certain amount of chaos is inevitable. But out of this chaos will come order, the order of revolution, which is the highest stage of chaotic, spontaneous popular outbreaks. The hatred of the masses who are today seething under the tremendous pressure of the military-court constitution cannot but break out, and here and there is actually breaking out in explosions of open armed struggle. We do not have the data enabling us to predict for certain that when the time comes for calling up recruits and collecting taxes an uprising of the whole people will break out, even if only in the form of purely passive resistance, but that there will be manifestations of such a struggle is inevitable. And the Cadets are stepping aside in good time. “Our conscience does not allow us to endorse this dangerous opinion”—declared the Cadet Congress through Madame Tyrkova, a member of the Central Committee of the Party.
But this invocation of conscience in no way alters the case. Even if approaching events indicated with mathematical certainty the early triumph of a popular revolution, the attitude of the leading circles of the Cadets would be no different. This is proved by the whole past history of the Cadet Party, and the negotiations with the pogrom-mongers for portfolios in the Cabinet marked the culminating point of this history; objectively, they were far more characteristic of it than the Vyborg Manifesto. One of the most authoritative representatives of the Party, Professor Gredeskul, testifies to this in the most definite manner (Rech, No. 180): “We have lived with our people,” he says. “We have shared their stormy impulses.” But that was the time of “boisterous, impetuous youth”; now we have reached the age of “persistent and persevering maturity”. And the palladium of this maturity is the election campaign, with a platform in the shape of the Duma’s reply to the address from the throne.
The Cadet Party has never shared the “stormy impulses” of the people, and never could do so; the learned professor orated like this merely by way of a rhetorical flourish. Nor has the Cadet Party, as represented by its Congress, moved to the right. It remains where it was. It intends, as hitherto, to take part in the present revolutionary crisis only insofar as it may degenerate into a purely parliamentary crisis.
We can only welcome the clear and explicit terms in which the Congress framed its resolutions to that effect. Of course, it will greatly disappoint those who regarded the Vyborg Manifesto as an indication that the Cadets were “beginning to turn to the left” and as a striking sign that the Russian revolution was acquiring a nation-wide character.
By declaring that it conceives the revolution only as a parliamentary struggle, the Congress has put squarely before the broad democratic masses the question of an open struggle for power. The whole course of the Russian revolution indicates that the answer of these democratic masses to that question will differ from that of the Cadets. And Social-Democrats must prepare for the moment when that answer is forthcoming so that the urban and rural poor will find in the Social-Democratic Party their natural leader in the period of revolution.
 Stolichnaya Pochta (Metropolitan Post)—a Left-Cadet daily newspaper published in St Petersburg from October 1906 to February 1908.