V. I.   Lenin

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




In discussing the views of Mr. Blank, this highly typical exponent of Cadet policy, we said hardly anything about the views of our Menshevik comrades. But the conclusion to be drawn about their position logically follows from what we have said. The very fact that the Cadets are so effusive in their praise of the Mensheviks shows that the latter must be making some mistake. The Cadet press constitutes nearly nine-tenths of the whole of the political press in Russia at the present time; and if the whole of this bourgeois press is systematically and continuously praising Plekhanov one day, Potresov another day (Nasha Zhizn), and the resolution adopted by all the Mensheviks yet another day, it is a true, if of course indirect, sign that our Menshevik comrades are making, or are about to make, some mistake. It is hardly possible for the public opinion of the whole bourgeois press to diverge very sharply from the class instinct of the bourgeoisie, which is very sensitive to the way the wind is blowing.

But, we repeat, this is only an indirect sign. What we have said above also leads us to a direct formulation of the mistakes that are evident in the draft Menshevik resolutions. This is not the place to examine these resolutions in detail;   we can only briefly deal with the most important points, relevant to the question of “the victories of the Cadets and the tasks of the workers’ party”.

The mistake the Mensheviks make is that they do not at all formulate, and evidently have even quite forgotten, such an important political task that now confronts the class-conscious, Social-Democratic proletariat as combating constitutional illusions. The socialist proletariat, strictly adhering to the class point of view, unswervingly applying the materialist conception of history in appraising present conditions, and hostile to all petty-bourgeois sophistries and deceptions, cannot ignore this task in the period Russia is passing through. If it were to ignore this task, it would cease to be the vanguard fighter for complete freedom for the people; it would cease to be the fighter who stands above bourgeois-democratic narrow-mindedness. If it were to ignore this task it would trail helplessly behind events, which are converting these very constitutional illusions into an instrument for the bourgeois corruption of the proletariat, just as the theory of “social peace” lately served in Europe as the principal instrument of the bourgeoisie for diverting the workers from socialism.

Constitutional illusions represent an entire period in the Russian revolution which naturally set in after the suppression of the first armed uprising (which will yet be followed by a second one), and after the Cadets’ election victories. Constitutional illusions are a politically opportunist and bourgeois poison, which the Cadet press, taking advantage of the enforced silence of the socialist newspapers, is pouring into the brains of the people through its millions of copies. We have before us the newspaper Tovarishch,[1] an organ of those Cadets who go among “the people”, and especially among the working class. In its first issue it sings dithyrambs to the Cadets: “In its programme it [the Cadet Party] promises [humph, humph, prom-is-es!] to defend the interests of the peasants [á la Kaufman? I and the workers [why, of course!] and the political rights of all Russian citizens without exception. If it obtains a majority in the State Duma, the present government, which has done so much harm to the people, will have to go, and the state will be administered by new men [the Muravyovs in place of Witte?] who will   heed the voice of the people." Yes, yes—heed the voice of the people!... How beautifully those Cadets write!

We are sure that there is not a single socialist who will not feel outraged by this shameless bourgeois lie, who will deny that it is absolutely necessary to combat this bourgeois corruption of the working class with the utmost vigour, a corruption which is all the more dangerous because the Cadets have heaps of newspapers, whereas we have not a single one, in spite of our innumerable attempts to start a most mode rate, most restrained and most modest socialist newspaper.

Moreover, there is no denying that this bourgeois lie, this befogging of the revolutionary consciousness of the people, is not an isolated sortie, but a regular campaign. More than that. A Cadet Duma (if the Duma will be Cadet) will be, so to speak, the incarnation of constitutional illusions, their hot bed, the focus of all the most ostentatious aspects of political life (which to the superficial and idealistic mind of the petty bourgeois seem the essence of, or at least the main factor in, contemporary political life). We are faced not merely with a systematic campaign by the whole of the bourgeois press and by all the bourgeois ideologists who are striving to take the proletariat in tow, but with an all-Russian representative institution that is surrounded with the halo of the first “parliament”—if we may call it that —and must perpetuate this transformation of the working class into an appendage of the Cadets. Recall the opinion of the “spheres” that we mentioned above. They said in effect: bow good it would be if the Cadets could win public confidence for the Duma, and make it the centre of all public hopes. The Duma is to serve as a plaster to draw the heat out of the revolution. On this our Cadets are virtually agreed with the Durnovos and Dubasovs. This is a fact. Polyarnaya Zvezda, especially, has proved this very clearly. Methodical and systematic reforms are better than a revolutionary whirlwind in which intellect and reason disappear—say the Blanks. It is better to haggle with the Cadets in the Duma than to fight with unreliable troops against the workers and peasants—say the Durnovos and Dubasovs. Les beaux esprits se rencontrent. Birds of a feather flock together.

Everybody says that we are slandering the liberals. We were called slanderers when, long ago, in Zarya and in the   old Iskra, we gave the first issues of Osvobozhdeniye a hostile reception.[2] The slanders turned out to be a Marxist analysis of bourgeois ideology which was wholly confirmed by reality. It will therefore not surprise or grieve us if we are now accused of slandering the party of “people’s freedom”.

Every political period confronts the Social-Democratic Party, as the representative of the only thoroughly revolutionary class, with a particular and specific task which becomes the urgent task of the day, but which is always obscured or pushed into the background in one way or another by the opportunist sections of the bourgeois democrats. The specific political task at the present time—which only the revolutionary Social-Democrats can fulfil, and which they must fulfil if they do not want to betray the lasting, fundamental and vital interests of the proletariat—is to combat constitutional illusions. Petty-bourgeois opportunists are always content with the achievements of the moment, with the gleam of the latest novelty, with momentary “progress”. We, however, must look further and deeper into things, and must point at once and immediately to those aspects of this progress that are the basis and guarantee of retrogression, that express the one-sidedness, narrowness and flimsiness of what has been achieved and make it necessary to continue the fight in other forms and under other conditions.

The more decisive the victory of the Cadets and of the opposition generally in the elections, and the more probable and imminent a Cadet Duma, the more dangerous constitutional illusions become and the more acutely perceptible is the contradiction between the complete maintenance and even intensification of the reactionary policy of the autocracy—which still exercises all power—and “popular” representation. This contradiction is very rapidly creating a new revolutionary crisis, immeasurably wider and deeper, more conscious and acute than all its predecessors. In 1906 we are verily experiencing the reproduction of the revolution, as so me Social-Democrat aptly expressed it. It is as if the history of 1905 were being repeated, starting from the beginning, from the autocracy in full power, going through the stage of public excitement and of a country-wide opposition movement of unprecedented power, and ending with—who knows   what? Perhaps with a “reproduction” of the liberal deputation that waited on the tsar last summer, but this time in the form of an address or a resolution of the Cadet Duma; or perhaps a “reproduction” of the autumn upsurge of 1905. It would be ridiculous to attempt to forecast the exact forms and dates of the future steps of the revolution. The important thing is to bear in mind the immeasurably wider sweep of the movement, and the greater political experience of the whole people. The important thing is to remember that what is impending is a revolutionary and not a parliamentary crisis. The “parliamentary” struggle in the Duma is a small stage; indeed, it is a tiny railway station—“Cadet Halt”—on the road from Constitution to Revolution. Owing to the fundamental peculiarities of the present social and political situation, the struggle in the Duma cannot decide the fate of people’s freedom. It cannot be the main form of the struggle, because this “parliament” is admittedly not recognised by either of the combatants—either the Durnovos, Dubasovs and Co. or the proletariat and the peasantry.

And the Social-Democrats, taking all the concrete, specific features of the present historical situation into account, must therefore resolutely recognise and systematically instil into the minds of the workers and politically-conscious peas ants that the main form of social movement in present-day Russia continues to be the directly revolutionary movement of the broad masses of the people, breaking the old laws, destroying the instruments for oppressing the people, winning political power, making new laws. The Duma convened by the Dubasovs and Durnovos, and protected by these worthy gentlemen, will play a very important part in the movement, but will not in any circumstances change its main form. The opposite opinion, already expressed and being spread by the Cadets, is a deception of the people, a petty-bourgeois philistine utopia.

And bound up with this is the question of the bourgeois democrats, and of whether the proletariat should support them or not. On this point, too, the Mensheviks’ resolutions are partly inadequate and partly mistaken. The Cadets are doing their utmost to identify their party with the bourgeois democrats in general, and are claiming that their party is the principal representative of bourgeois democracy. This is   a monstrous lie; and all vagueness on the part of Social-Democrats in defining the term “bourgeois democracy” merely serves to foster this lie. We must find a solution for the concrete political problem of supporting the bourgeois demo-. crabs that will be based on an absolutely definite appraisal of specific trends, tendencies and parties among the bourgeois democrats. And the main task of the day in this respect is to separate the revolutionary bourgeois democrats—who, even if they are not quite politically conscious and cling to a number of prejudices and so forth, are capable of waging a resolute and unrelenting struggle against all the remnants of serfdom in Russia—from the liberal monarchists and opportunist bourgeois democrats who are capable of entering into all sorts of deals with the reaction, and who at every critical moment advance their counter-revolutionary aspirations. That there are extremely large numbers of revolutionary democrats in Russia is beyond doubt; their lack of organisation, their non-party character, and the fact that they are crushed by the present reign of terror can mislead only the most superficial and thoughtless observers. It is with these democrats, and only with these, that we must “march separately, but strike together”, with the object of fulfilling the democratic revolution to the very end, and ruthlessly exposing the unreliability of the now “dominant” Cadet Party.

And setting itself the object of carrying through to the end the democratic revolution, the party of the socialist proletariat must be able not only to expose at any time all constitutional illusions, not only to separate the elements capable of struggle from the mass of bourgeois democrats, but also precisely and frankly to define and put clearly before the masses the conditions in which this decisive victory of the revolution can be achieved. It must show the masses, and bring out in all its propaganda and agitation, what precisely this decisive victory of the revolution must mean. Unless we do this (and this our Menshevik comrades have failed to do in their resolutions), all our talk about “carrying through the revolution to the end” will be nothing more than bare and empty phrases.

In his article Mr. Blank refers to the French “Social-Democrats” of 1848-49. Our worthy Cadet does not realise that he is   drawing a caricature of himself. It is, after all, the Cadets who today are repeating the mistakes of the French “Social-Democrats”, who in fact were not Social-Democrats, i.e., Marxists, at all. They were not a class party of the workers, but a regular petty-bourgeois party; they were thoroughly permeated with constitutional illusions and with belief in “parliamentary” methods of struggle in all, even revolutionary, circumstances. And that is precisely why in spite of their stupendous, purely “Cadet”, parliamentary successes, they suffered that shameful fiasco which Marx so derided.[3]

And our Party, too—if it were imprudently to enter into all sorts of election blocs, agreements and deals with the Cadets, if it were to leave the task of combating constitutional illusions in the shade, if, in seeking a rapprochement with the bourgeois democrats, it were to identify the latter with their opportunist wing, i.e., the Cadets, and if it were to forget the necessity of seriously preparing for extra-parliamentary methods of struggle in a period like the one we are now passing through—our Party, too, would run the serious risk of meeting with the same deplorable fate as that met with by the French petty-bourgeois, quasi-Social-Democrats in 1848-49.

We have no reason to be envious of the Cadets’ successes. Petty-bourgeois illusions and faith in the Duma are still fairly strong among the people. They must be dispelled. The more complete the Cadets’ triumph in the Duma, the sooner will this be done. We welcome the successes of the Girondists[4] of the great Russian revolution! They will be followed by the rise of broader masses of the people; more energetic and revolutionary sections will come to the fore; they will rally around the proletariat; they will carry our great bourgeois revolution to complete victory, and will usher in the era of socialist revolution in the West.

March 28, 1906


[1] Tovarishch (Comrade)—a daily bourgeois newspaper published in St. Petersburg from March 15 (28), 1906, to December 30, 1907 (January 12, 1908). Closely associated with it were S. N. Prokopovich and Y. D. Kuskova.

Though not the official organ of any party, the paper served as the mouthpiece of the Left Cadets. Its contributors included Mensheviks.

[2] Bourgeois liberalism, which subsequently grouped itself as a political trend round the magazine Osvobozhdeniye, was criticised by Lenin in his article “The Persecutors of the Zemstvo and the   Hannibals of Liberalism”, published in Zarya, Nos. 2 and 3, in 1901 (see present edition, Vol. 5, pp. 31-80). The early issues of Osvobozhdeniye were criticised in Lenin’s articles “The Draft of a New Law on Strikes”, “Political Struggle and Political Chicanery” and “Mr. Struve Exposed by His Colleague”, published in Iskra (see present edition, Vol. 6, pp. 217, 253 and 354).

[3] See Karl Marx, The Class Struggles in France 1848 to 1850 (Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, pp. 139-242).

[4] The Girondists—a bourgeois political group during the French bourgeois revolution. They represented the interests of the bourgeois moderates, and vacillated between revolution and counter revolution, pursuing a policy of compromise with the monarchy.

  A Popular Talk With Cadet Publicists and Learned Professors |  

< backward     Contents     forward >
Works Index   |   Volume 10 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index