V. I.   Lenin

The Political Crisis and the Bankruptcy of Opportunist Tactics


The Central Committee of our Party is in the hands of the Right-wing Social-Democrats. Prompt, precise and clear answers to the new tactical problems were required of them. What were their answers?

To the main question concerning the general character of the impending struggle, the Central Committee answered by proclaiming the following slogans: at the outset “For the resumption of the Duma sessions.” The Cadets took up this slogan (see Rech and the interview with Mr. Kedrin in the newspaper Oko[1]). The Social-Democratic Party rejected it. The Bolshevik members of the Central Committee and the St. Petersburg Committee of the Party protested. The Central Committee discarded the first slogan and proclaimed another in its place: “In defence of the Duma against the camarilla, for the purpose of convening a constituent assembly.” Finally, this second slogan evolved into a third and last slogan: “For the Duma as an organ of power which will convene the constituent assembly.” In spite of the protests of the Left-wing Social-Democrats, the Central Committee stuck to that slogan. On the question of slogans—utter confusion.

Another question: What form of struggle should be recommended? The Central Committee was primarily in favour of demonstration strikes. It wanted to call for an immediate strike, but found no support among any of the revolutionary parties and organisations. It then signed manifestoes calling for an uprising (the manifestoes: “To the Army and Navy” and “To All the Russian Peasants”). But after taking a step forward from the demonstration strike to the strike for an uprising, it took a hasty step backward and called for “partial mass expressions of protest”.

The third fundamental question: Who shall be our ally in the struggle? Which sections of bourgeois democracy can we depend upon, or which can we treat with preferably? With what parties or organisations should we seek an under standing? The Central Committee, as we have already seen, trimmed both its slogans and the forms of struggle recommended by it to suit the “Duma as a whole”, to suit the Cadets. But “drive nature out through the door and it will   fly in through the window”! The Central Committee was compelled to sign manifestoes to the army, to the peasantry and “To the Whole People” in conjunction only with the revolutionary organisations, in conjunction only with the “Trudoviks” (from the wreckage of the Duma). In its arguments on tactics, the Central Committee, like all the Mensheviks, draws a line of demarcation between the Cadets and the Octobrists: “they”—are the Right, “we”—the Left (“we” and the Cadets). In its tactical calls to action, in its fighting manifestoes, the Central Committee draws a line of demarcation between the Cadets and the Trudoviks; the Cadets are placed either on the Right or among the neutrals in the struggle. It turns out then, that “we” means “we” and the Trudoviks, but without the Cadets. It turns out, then, that “we” are an information and co-ordination bureau for all the revolutionary organisations, including the “Committee of the Trudovik Group”, but without the Cadets. So it is a case of “a burning desire but a bitter fate”. The Social-Democrats of the Right have a burning desire to go hand in hand with the Cadets, but their fate is a bitter one, for the Cadets repudiate the fighting agreements that the course of events dictates.

Such, in its main features, is the factual history of Menshevik tactics after the dissolution of the Duma. This history is recorded in a small number of documents. Read the “Letters” (Nos. 4 and 5) of the Central Committee to the Party organisations, and the manifestoes “To the Army and Navy” (signed by the Social-Democratic Group in the Duma and by the Committee of the Trudovik Group); “To All the Russian Peasants” (signed by the Committee of the Trudovik Group, the Social-Democratic Group in the Duma, and the All-Russian Peasant Union, by the Central Committees of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party and the Social-Democratic Party, the All-Russian Railwaymen’s Union, and the All-Russian Teachers’ Union); “To the Whole People” (the same organisations, minus the three unions, but plus the Polish Socialist Party and the Bund); and lastly, read the protest of the three members of the Central Committee (published “for Party members only”[2]) and you will have all the material on the opportunist tactics of Social-Democrats since the dissolution of the Duma.

What is the sum and substance of this factual, external history of the Menshevik tactical directives? The sum and substance is clear: vacillation between the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie and the revolutionary bourgeois democrats. Indeed, what do the vacillations of the Central Committee on the question of the slogan amount to? To vacillation between the legal constitutional method as the exclusive, sole method (the slogan: “Resumption of the Duma sessions”), and recognition, or admission, of the revolutionary method (the “constituent assembly” slogan toned down by invariable association with the Duma). This is vacillation between the Cadets (who fully accept, and have accepted, the “resumption of sessions” slogan) and the revolutionary peasantry (the Trudoviks, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Peasant Union, the Railwaymen’s and Teachers’ unions, who in conjunction with the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party signed the call for an uprising in favour of a constituent assembly). Our Central Committee, or our opportunist Social-Democrats, are only a little to the left of the Cadets, and much to the right of the revolutionary bourgeois democrats. Such is the sum and substance of the vacillations of the Central Committee on the question of slogans, the form of struggle and the alignment of the political parties.

Throughout the Duma period, disagreement on tactics between the Right- and the Left-wing Social-Democrats be came more and more marked, and centred more and more around the main question of the line of demarcation in the ranks of the bourgeois democrats, or the question of whom we should ally ourselves with. The Right-wing Social-Democrats directed all their efforts towards forming an alliance with the Cadets (support of the Duma as a whole, sup port of the demand for a Duma Cabinet). The revolutionary Social-Democrats, on the contrary, directed their tactics towards winning over from the Cadets the revolutionary bourgeois democrats, towards liberating these elements from the yoke of the Cadets and uniting them with the proletariat for militant aims. The dissolution of the Duma was the upshot of the Duma period. And what happened? The Right wing Social-Democrats were forced to abandon the Cadets and join the revolutionary democrats. The only things of a   Cadet nature that have remained are a few frills to their slogans. The circumstances compelled them to draw the line of demarcation exactly where the Left-wing Social-Democrats have always said it should be drawn. The inconsistency of the Central Committee’s slogans, their futility, became glaringly obvious.


[1] Oko (The Eye)—a liberal-bourgeois daily newspaper of a Cadet tendency published in St. Petersburg from August 6 (19) to Octo ber 31 (November 13), 1906, instead of the previous successively published newspapers Bus, Molva (Hearsay) and Dvadtsaty Vek (The Twentieth Century).

[2] Lenin is referring to the statement of the Bolshevik section of the Central Committee of July 20 (August 2), 1906, printed as a separate leaflet entitled “Statement of Three Central Committee Members in the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.” and in the pamphlet “Did the Party Have a Central Committee in 1906-07?”

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