V. I.   Lenin

The Victory of the Cadets and the Tasks of the Workers’ Party



What is the Party of People’s Freedom?

What role, then, can and must a Cadet Duma play? To answer this question, we must first of all examine in greater detail the character of the Cadet Party itself.

We have already noted the main feature of the class structure of this party. Unconnected with any one particular class in bourgeois society, but absolutely bourgeois in composition, character and ideals, this party is wavering between the democratic petty bourgeoisie and the counter revolutionary elements of the big bourgeoisie. The social basis of this party consists, first, of the masses of the towns people, the very townspeople who eagerly built barricades in Moscow in the famous December days; secondly, it consists of the liberal landlords who want to come to a deal with the autocracy, through the good offices of pro-liberal officials, for an “inoffensive” division of power between the people and those who by the grace of God oppress the people. This extremely broad, indefinite and inherently contradictory class basis (which, as has been noted above,   is clearly discernible in the figures regarding the Cadet electors) is reflected with remarkable vividness in the Cadets’ programme and tactics. Their programme is entirely bourgeois; the Cadets simply cannot conceive of a social system other than capitalism, beyond which even their boldest suggestions do not go. In politics, their programme combines democracy, “people’s freedom”, with counter-revolution, with the freedom of the autocracy to oppress the people; and it combines them with particularly petty-bourgeois and professorial-pedantic scrupulousness. The Cadet’s ideal is that power in the state should be divided into approximately three parts. One part goes to the autocracy. The monarchy remains. The monarch retains equal power with the popular representative body, which is to “agree” with him on the laws to be passed, and submit its bills to him for approval. The second part goes to the landlords and the big capitalists. They get the Upper Chamber, from which the “common people” are to be barred by a two-stage electoral system and a residential qualification. Lastly, the third part goes to the people, who get a Lower Chamber elected on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot. Why fight, why this internecine strife? wails Judas Cadet,[2] lifting up his eyes and reproachfully glancing, now towards the revolutionary people, now towards the counter-revolutionary government. Brothers! Love one another! Let the wolves have their fill without any harm to the sheep, let the monarchy with its Up per Chamber be inviolate and “people’s freedom” as sured.

The hypocrisy underlying these Cadet principles is most glaring, and the fallacies of the “scientific” (professorially-scientific) arguments with which they are defended are amazing. It would be a great mistake, of course, to attribute this hypocrisy and these fallacies to the personal qualities of the Cadet leaders, or of individual Cadets. Such a vulgar explanation, which our opponents often attribute to us, is repugnant to Marxism. Undoubtedly, there are many most sincere Cadets who really believe that their party stands for “people’s freedom”. But the dual and vacillating class basis of their party inevitably engenders their double faced policy, their fallacies, and their hypocrisy.

These amiable features stand out even more clearly, perhaps, in the Cadets’ tactics than in their programme. Polyarnaya Zvezda,[3] in which Mr. Struve has so sedulously and successfully merged Cadetism with Novoye Vremya-ism, has given us an excellent, magnificent and inimitable example of Cadet tactics. At the moment when the firing in Moscow was subsiding, and when the military and police dictatorship was indulging in its savage orgies, when repressions and mass torture were raging all over Russia, Polyarnaya Zvezda protested against the use of force by the Lefts, and against the strike committees organised by the revolutionary parties. The Cadet professors who are trading in their science for the benefit of the Dubasovs went to the length (like Mr. Kiesewetter, member of the Central Commit tee of the Cadet Party and candidate for the Duma) of translating the word “dictatorship” by the words “reinforced security”! These “men of science” even distorted their high-school Latin in order to discredit the revolutionary struggle. Please note once and for all, Messrs. Kiesewetter, Struve, Izgoyev and Co., that dictatorship means unlimited power based on force, and not on law. In civil war, any victorious power can only be a dictatorship. The point is, however, that there is the dictatorship of a minority over the majority, the dictatorship of a handful of police officials over the people; and there is the dictatorship of the overwhelming majority of the people over a handful of tyrants, robbers and usurpers of people’s power. By their vulgar distortion of the scientific concept “dictatorship”, by their out cries against the violence of the Left at a time when the Right are resorting to the most lawless and outrageous violence, the Cadet gentlemen have given striking evidence of the position the “compromisers” take in the intense revolutionary struggle. When the struggle flares up, the “compromiser” cravenly runs for cover. When the revolutionary people are victorious (October 17), the “compromiser” creeps out of his hiding-place, boastfully preens himself, shouting and raving until he is hoarse: “That was a ’glorious’ political strike!” But when victory goes to the counter-revolution, the compromiser begins to heap hypocritical admonitions and edifying counsel on the vanquished. The successful strike was “glorious”. The defeated strikes were   criminal, mad, senseless, and anarchistic. The defeated insurrection was folly, a riot of surging elements, barbarity and stupidity. In short, his political conscience and political wisdom prompt the “compromiser” to cringe be fore the side that for the moment is strongest, to get in the way of the combatants, hindering first one side and then the other, to tone down the struggle and to blunt the revolutionary consciousness of the people who are waging a desperate struggle for freedom.

The peasants are fighting against landlordism, and this struggle is now reaching its climax. It has become so acute that the issue is put squarely: the landlords are demanding machine-guns in reply to the slightest attempt of the peas ants to seize the land that the nobles have been grabbing for centuries. The peasants want to take all the land. If they attempt it, Polyarnaya Zvezda, with an unctuous excuse, will send the Kaufmans into the field to prove that the land lords haven’t very much land: that, strictly speaking, it is not the land that is the cause of the trouble, and that every thing can be settled peacefully.

The resolution on tactics adopted by the last Cadet congress[4] very well sums up the Cadets’ political chicanery. After the December uprising, when it had become perfectly obvious to everybody that the peaceful strike was obsolete, that it had spent itself and become useless as an in dependent weapon in the struggle, the Cadet congress came along with a resolution (proposed, I think, by Mr. Vinaver) which recognised the peaceful political strike as a weapon in the struggle!

This is magnificent, matchless, Cadet gentlemen. You have assimilated the spirit and meaning of bourgeois political chicanery with inimitable facility. The bourgeoisie must seek the support of the people; without it, it will never achieve power, and has never done so. But at the same time it must restrain the revolutionary onslaught of the people to prevent the workers and peasants from winning— God forbid—complete and consistent democracy, genuine, and not monarchist and “two-Chamber”, freedom for the people. That is why it must throw a spoke in the wheel of the revolution every time it is winning. And for this purpose every means, every device, must be brought into play—from   the “scientific” distortion of Latin by “professors” to discredit the very idea of the people achieving a decisive victory, to, say, recognising only such weapons in the revolutionary struggle as are already obsolete at the time when you recognise them! This is both harmless and advantageous. Harmless, because blunted weapons obviously cannot bring the people victory, will not put the proletariat and the peasantry in power; at best, they will shake the autocracy a little and help the Cadets to bargain for an extra bit of “rights” for the bourgeoisie. It is advantageous because on the surface it creates the impression that the Cadets are “revolutionary”, that they sympathise with the people’s struggle, and this wins them the support of large numbers who sincerely and earnestly want the revolution to win.

The very essence of the economic condition of the petty bourgeoisie, wavering between capital and labour, inevitably engenders the political instability and duplicity of the Cadet Party, leads to the latter’s notorious “arrangement” theory (“the people have rights, but it is the prerogative of the monarch to sanction these rights”) and converts it into a party of constitutional illusions. The ideologist of the petty, bourgeoisie cannot grasp the “essence of the constitution”. The petty bourgeois is always inclined to take a scrap of paper for the essence of the thing. He is ill-fitted for independent organisation—that is, independent of the militant class—for the direct revolutionary struggle. Being the most far-removed from the most acute economic struggle of our epoch, he prefers, in politics as well, to yield first place to other classes when it comes to really winning a constitution, to actually achieving a genuine constitution. Let the proletariat fight for the constitutional ground, and on this constitutional ground, so long as it holds, even on the corpses of workers killed during the insurrection, let the toy-business mannikins[5] play at parliamentarism— such is the immanent tendency of the bourgeoisie. And the Cadet Party, this refined, ennobled, sublimated, perfumed, idealised, and sweetened incarnation of general bourgeois aspirations, is working on these lines with wonderful consistency.

You call yourselves the party of people’s freedom? Don’t give us that! You are a party of philistine betrayers of   people’s freedom, a party of philistine illusions about people’s freedom. You are a party of freedom—in that you want to subject freedom to a monarch and a landlord Upper Chamber. You are a party of the people—in that you dread the victory of the people, that is, the complete victory of a peasant revolt, of the workers’ struggle for the cause of labour. You are a party of the struggle—in that every time a real, direct, immediate revolutionary struggle against the autocracy flares up, you take refuge behind unctuous, professorial excuses. You are a party of words, not of deeds; a party of promises, not of fulfilment; a party of constitutional illusions, not a party for an earnest struggle for a real (not merely a paper) constitution.

When a lull sets in after a desperate battle; when up above “the sated beast, the victor, lies a-weary”,[1] and down below the people are “sharpening their swords” and gathering fresh strength; when slowly the ferment is beginning to bubble and seethe among the masses again, when a new political crisis and a new great battle are only in the making—then the party of philistine illusions about people’s freedom reaches the culminating point of its development and exults over its victories. The sated beast feels too languid to pounce once more upon the liberal talkers (there’s no hurry; it can wait!); for the champions of the working class and the peasantry, the time has not yet come for another upheaval. This is just the golden opportunity; this is the time to gather the votes of all the discontented (and who is contented nowadays?); this is the time for our Cadets to sing full-throated, like any nightingale.

The Cadets are the worms in the grave of the revolution. The revolution lies buried. It is being eaten by worms. But revolution has the power of speedy resurrection and of blossoming forth again on well-prepared soil. The soil has been   wonderfully, magnificently prepared by the October days of freedom and by the December uprising; but we would not for a moment deny that the worms, too, are doing useful work while the revolution lies buried. Why, these fat worms manure the soil so well....

Mr. Struve once exclaimed in Polyarnaya Zvezda: “The peasant in the Duma will be a Cadet!” Very likely. The bulk of the peasants are, of course, in favour of freedom for the people. They will hear these fine, lofty words, they will see the police officials, face-smashing policemen, and feudal-minded landlords dressed up in all sorts of “Octobrist” costumes: and, of course, they will be on the side of freedom for the people, they will be attracted by the beautifully coloured labels, they will not see through this philistine deception all at once. They will become Cadets— and remain Cadets until the course of events shows them that the people’s freedom has still to be won, that the real fight for freedom for the people has still to be fought outside the Duma. And then—then the peasants as well as the bulk of the town petty bourgeoisie will split: a small but economically powerful kulak minority may this time definitely side with the counter-revolution, another section will go over to the side of “compromise”, of “reconciliation”, of an amicable deal with the monarchy and the landlords; and a third section will side with the revolution.

In December, during the great struggle, the townspeople built barricades. In March, when the insurrection is sup pressed, they protest against the government by voting for the Cadets. When their present constitutional illusions are dispelled, they will leave the Cadets and go over to the revolution again. How many of the townspeople abandon Cadet word-spinning for revolutionary struggle, how many of the peasantry join them, how vigorously, how well-organised, how successfully the proletariat goes forward in the next onslaught, will determine the outcome of the revolution.

The Cadet Party is an ephemeral, lifeless party. This may sound paradoxical at a time when the Cadets are achieving brilliant election victories, and will probably achieve still more brilliant “parliamentary” victories in the Duma. But Marxism teaches us to examine all phenomena in their   process of development, and not to be content merely with superficial descriptions; not to believe in pretty labels, but to investigate the economic, class basis of parties; to study the objective political situations which will determine the significance and outcome of their political activities. Apply this method to the Cadets, and you will see that our assertion is correct. The Cadets are not a party, but a symptom. They are not a political force, but foam resulting from the collision of more or less equally balanced contending forces. They do in very truth combine in themselves the swan, crab and pike of the fable—the garrulous, boastful, smug, narrow-minded, craven bourgeois intellectual, the counter-revolutionary landlord who wants to ransom himself from revolution at a reasonable price, and lastly the hard, shrewd, cheese-paring and tight-fisted petty bourgeois. This party neither desires, nor is it able, to rule at all firmly in bourgeois society; it neither desires, nor is it able, to lead the bourgeois-democratic revolution along anything like a definite path. The Cadets have no desire to rule; they prefer to “belong” under a monarchy and an Upper Chamber. They cannot rule, because the real masters of bourgeois society, the Shipovs and Guchkovs, the representatives of big capital and big property, hold aloof from this party. The Cadets are a party of dreamers about a nice white, clean, orderly, “ideal” bourgeois society. The Guchkovs and Shipovs are the party of real, genuine, grimy capital in modern bourgeois society. The Cadets cannot lead the revolution forward, because they lack the backing of a united and really revolutionary class. They dread the revolution. They rally everybody, the whole “people”, only on the basis of constitutional illusions and unite them only with a negative bond: hatred for the sated beast, for the autocratic government, in opposition to which, on the present “legal” basis, the Cadets are more to the left than anybody else.

The historical role of the Cadets is a transient, fleeting one. They will fall together with the inevitable and speedy fall of constitutional illusions; they will fall like the French Social-Democrats of the late 1840s, who very much resembled our Cadets, and were also petty-bourgeois. The Cadets will fall, after preparing the soil—either for a prolonged triumph   of the Shipovs and Guchkovs, for a prolonged burial of the revolution, for “serious” bourgeois constitutionalism, or for the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.


[1] Skitalets, “Silence Reigns”.“The strings are broken; song, be silent now! All we had to say we said before the fray. The dragon, dying monster, has come to life again; the clash of swords has drowned the thrum of strings.... Silence reigns; the familiar sounds of life are stilled in this gruesome night. The vanquished, down below, are sharpening their swords; above, the victor lies a-weary. The sated beast is old and feeble. There, down below, he sees something new a-foot; the old door is trembling and shaking; the giant is breaking his chains.”—Lenin

[2] Judas Golovlyov—a sanctimonious, hypocritical serf-owner described in M. Saltykov-Shchedrin’s The Golovlyov Family.

[3] Polyarnaya Zvezda (The Pole Star)—a weekly magazine of the Right wing of the Cadet Party, published in St. Petersburg in 1905-06 and edited by P. B. Struve. In April and May 1906, the Cadets published Svoboda i Kultura (Freedom and Culture) instead of Polyarnaya Zvezda.

[4] The Second Congress of the Constitutional-Democratic (Cadet) Party took place in St. Petersburg on January 5-11 (18-24), 1906. On the issue of Party tactics, the Congress resolved to approve “as a declaration of the Party” the report which M. M. Vinaver delivered to the Congress on January 11 (24). The fundamental thesis of the declaration was recognition of the political strike as a peaceful means of fighting against the government. The declaration said that the Party considered the chief field of its activity to be “an organised representative assembly”, that is, the Duma. The Congress virtually took a stand for a deal with the government.

[5] The reference is to the puppets in Saltykov-Shchedrin’s tale of that name. Izuverov, the skilful craftsman who made them, said: “They have no wits or deeds or desires. All they have instead is a semblance.”

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