To appraise the victories of the Cadets and the present tasks of the workers’ party, it is vastly important to analyse the preceding period of the Russian revolution and its relation to the present period. The draft resolutions on tactics, published by the Majority and the Minority respectively, lay down two lines, express two trends of thought, which arise from two different appraisals of this period. We refer the reader to those resolutions. Here we propose to deal with an article published in the Cadet newspaper Nasha Zhizn. The article discusses the first Menshevik resolution, and provides ample material with which to test, supplement and explain what we have said above about the Cadet Duma. For this reason we quote the article in full (R. Blank, “Topical Questions in the Russian Social-Democratic Movement”, Nasha Zhizn, No. 401, March 23, 1906):
“The resolution of the ’Menshevik’ faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party on party tactics, published the other day, is a very valuable document. It shows that the severe lessons of the first period of the Russian revolution have not been lost on that section of the Russian Social-Democrats which is most sensitive to the demands of real life, and is must thoroughly permeated with the principles of scientific socialism. The object of the new tactics formulated in this resolution is to direct the Russian Social-Democratic movement along the path that is being followed by the whole of the international Social-Democratic movement led by the great Social-Democratic Party of Germany. I say ’new tactics’, but this is not quite correct, because in many respects they represent a reversion to the old principles that were laid down by the founders of the Russian Social-Democratic movement at its very inception, which since then have been repeatedly elaborated by its theoreticians and publicists, and which were accept ed by nearly all Russian Social-Democrats right up to the outbreak of the Russian revolution. But these principles were forgotten. The revolutionary whirlwind caught up the whole of our Social-Democratic movement like a feather and swept it forward at a dizzying speed. All the Social-Democratic and Marxist principles and ideas, elaborated with such zeal and devotion in the course of a quarter of a century, disappeared from view in an instant, as though they were merely a light dust on the surface. The very pillars of the Social-Democratic world-out look were shaken to their very foundations, and even seemed to have been uprooted.
“But the whirlwind raged for a time and then subsided on the spot where it began; the Social-Democrats returned to their starting-point. The force of the whirlwind can be judged from the fact that it even carried away Parvus, as he himself admits; and those who know what a heavy-weight Parvus is, will understand what this means ’The revolutionary torrent swept us forward with irresistible force,’ writes Parvus in his well-known pamphlet. ’We were merely the strings of a harp on which the revolutionary hurricane was playing,’ he observes elsewhere in that pamphlet. This, too, is absolutely true, and explains why Social-Democratic music at that time was so unlike the symphonies of Beethoven, Bach or—Marx. All theories and principles, and even intellect and simple reason, retreat into the background, almost vanish behind the scenes, when the mighty elements appear upon the stage in all their fury.
“But now the turn of intellect and reason has come again, and it is possible to resume deliberate, methodical and systematic activities. Obviously, the first thing to do is to take precautions to prevent a re petition of what occurred in the first period of the Russian revolution, in its Sturm- und-Drang-Zeit, that is, measures against the destructive effects of revolutionary torrents and hurricanes. The only effective precaution against this is to enlarge and strengthen the organisation. It is quite natural, therefore, that the ’Menshevik’ faction should push this task into the forefront and formulate it on broad lines, by including in its programme economic organisations as well, and by recognising the necessity of utilising all legal possibilities. The resolution is free from romantic contempt for ’legality’ and from aristocratic disdain for ’economics’.
’The resolution expresses an equally sober attitude towards the question of the relations between the workers and the bourgeois democrats; it fully recognises the need for mutual assistance and the danger of the proletariat entering single-handed into a decisive struggle against the armed reaction. Particularly noteworthy is the attitude the resolution adopts towards the question of armed uprising. It recognises the necessity of ’avoiding such actions as will bring the proletariat into armed conflict with the government, in conditions that will doom it to remain isolated in this struggle’.
“Only in this way can we in this country avoid a repetition of the June days of 1848 in Paris and make it possible to co-ordinate, if not to coalesce, the struggle of the workers and the bourgeois democrats; for unless this is done the movement cannot be successful. The bourgeois democrats who, according to Karl Marx, ’are of supreme importance in every advanced revolution’, are of no less importance in the Russian revolution. If the Russian Social-Democratic Party cannot, or has no desire to, make them its open allies, it must at all events take care not to push them into the opposite camp, into the camp of reaction and counter-revolution. This the revolutionary Social-Democrats must not do, have no right to do; they are in duty bound to prevent this by every means in their power, for the sake of the cause of freedom, and for the sake of Social-Democracy itself. If the bourgeois democrats are opposed to insurrection at the present time, then it is useless talking about insurrection. This fact must be reckoned with, even if the bourgeoisie is prompted only by its characteristic flabbiness, feebleness and coward ice. Such factors must also be reckoned with. Did not the leader of the Germ an revolutionary Social-Democrats himself say:
"’In der Gewalt sind sie uns stets über!’—’As far as brute force is concerned, they, i.e., the reactionaries, will always be superior to us!’
“Perhaps it is wrong to say ’always’, but as far as the ’present’ is concerned, one can share the opinion of Liebknecht, and of German Social-Democracy which unanimously agrees with him, without being a coward, or even merely ’flabby’ .... Evidently, the resolution of the ’Mensheviks’ is based on this point of view, or at all events on some thing like it. And on a number of other points, too, it is permeated with the same spirit of political realism that distinguishes the German Social-Democrats, and to which their unexampled successes are due.
“Will the Russian Social-Democratic Party as a whole subscribe to the resolution of the ’Mensheviks’? This is something on which much in our revolutionary movement, especially in our Social-Democratic movement—perhaps its very fate for many years to come—will depend. In Russia, as was also the case in other countries, Social-Democracy can take root and become strong only when it penetrates deeply into the democratic masses. Should it, however, limit itself to cultivating the upper, even if the most fruitful, layer of democrats, a new hurricane may easily uproot it from Russian soil in the same way as Social-Democracy was uprooted in France in 1848, or as the Social-Democratic movement known as the ’Chartist movement’ was uproot ed in England in the 1840s.”
Such is Mr. Blank’s article. The most typical “Cadet” arguments, the origins of which are familiar to everyone who has carefully read Mr. Struve’s Osvobozhdeniye and the later legal Cadet publications, are so arranged here that the appraisal of present-day political tactics is based on an appraisal of the past period of the Russian revolution. First of all, therefore, we will examine this appraisal of the past, to see whether it is right or wrong.
Mr. Blank compares two periods of the Russian revolution. The first period covers approximately October-December 1905. This is the period of the revolutionary whirlwind. The second is the present period, which, of course, we have a right to call the period of Cadet victories in the Duma elections, or, perhaps, if we take the risk of running ahead some what, the period of a Cadet Duma.
Regarding this period Mr. Blank says that the turn of intellect and reason has come again, and it is possible to resume deliberate, methodical and systematic activities. On the other hand, Mr. Blank describes the first period as a period in which theory diverged from practice. All Social-Democratic principles and ideas vanished; the tactics that had always been advocated by the founders of Russian Social-Democracy were forgotten, and even the very pillars of the Social-Democratic world-outlook were uprooted.
Mr. Blank’s main assertion is merely a statement of fact: the whole theory of Marxism diverged from “practice” in the period of the revolutionary whirlwind.
Is that true? What is the first and main “pillar” of Marxist theory? It is that the only thoroughly revolutionary class in modern society, and therefore, the advanced class in every revolution, is the proletariat. The question is then: has the revolutionary whirlwind uprooted this “pillar” of the Social-Democratic world-outlook? On the contrary, the whirlwind has vindicated it in the most brilliant fashion. It was the proletariat that was the main and, at first, almost the only fighter in this period. For the first time in history, perhaps, a bourgeois revolution was marked by the employment of a purely proletarian weapon, i.e., the mass political strike, on a scale unprecedented even in the most developed capitalist countries. The proletariat marched into battle, which was definitely revolutionary, at a time when the Struves and Blanks were calling for participation in the Bulygin Duma, and when the Cadet professors were exhorting the students to keep to their studies.With its proletarian weapon, the proletariat won for Russia the whole of that so-called “constitution”, which since then has only been mutilated, chopped about and curtailed. The proletariat in October 1905 employed those tactics of struggle that six months before had been laid down in the resolution of the Bolshevik Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., which had strongly emphasised the necessity of combining the mass political strike with insurrection; and it is this combination that characterises the whole period of the “revolutionary whirlwind”, the whole of the last quarter of 1905. Thus our ideologist of the petty bourgeoisie has distorted reality in the most brazen and glaring manner. He has not cited a single fact to prove that Marxist theory diverged from practical experience in the period of the “revolutionary whirlwind”; he has tried to obscure the main feature of this whirlwind, which most brilliantly confirmed the correctness of “all Social-Democratic principles and ideas”, of “all the pillars of the Social-Democratic world-outlook”.