V. I.   Lenin

The Duma and the Russian Liberals

Written: April 10
Published: Nashe Ekho, No. 14, April 10, 1907. Published according to the text in Nashe Ekho.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 379-382.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README

St. Petersburg, April 10.

The mood of what is known as Russian “society” is one of depression, dismay and perplexity. The article by F. Malover[1]—who made an extremely apt choice of a pseudonym—in the Sunday issue of Tovarishch (April 8) is an instructive and typical manifestation because it correctly reflects that mood.

Mr. Malover’s article is called “The Duma and Society”. By society is here understood, in accordance with the old Russian use of the word, a handful of liberal government officials, bourgeois intellectuals, bored rentiers and similar haughty, self-satisfied, and idle members of the public, who fancy themselves the salt of the earth, proudly call them selves the “intelligentsia”, create “public opinion”, etc., etc.

It seems to Mr. Malover that “the campaign against the Duma, to be observed during the past few days in the columns of the Left press, is extremely risky”. That is the main idea behind the article. Mr. Malover’s argument is a reference to the mood of society. Society is fatigued, “waves aside” politics, does not protest against abuses, and reads “light” novels in the libraries or buys them in the shops. “The environment is flaccid” ... “for the Duma to revive, the country must revive.” “The Duma could, of course, at any moment die an heroic death, but, judging by rumours in circulation, this would only be to the advantage of its in voluntary godmothers. And what would the people gain from that, other than a new election law?”

We have quoted these passages because they are typical of most Russian liberals and all the intellectual backrooms of liberalism.

Note that in the final sentence the word “people” has slipped in in place of “society”! Mr. Malover, sly even to wards himself (as are all intellectualists of little faith), has falsified his own argument and has tried to make it appear that it is the notorious “society” that really determines the “support from without” or the attitude of the masses. Despite the skilfulness of the counterfeit, it has not passed: and he has had to substitute “the people” for “society”. And all the dust that the members of “society” have accumulated in stuffy and fusty chambers so carefully screened off and protected from the street, flies up in a cloud immediately the door leading to the “street” is opened. The dry-as-dust sophistry that they fancy is “intellectual” and “well-educated” is laid bare for all to see.

Thesis: the campaign of the Lefts against the Duma is risky.

Proof: society is fatigued and waves politics aside, preferring light novels.

Conclusion: the people would gain nothing from the heroic death of the Duma.

Political slogan: “nobody now has any doubts, it would seem, that the political struggle of the immediate future can only be for the consolidation and extension of the rights of the Duma as the one [!] weapon still in the hands of the people [!], with which to struggle against the government”.

The logic of counter-revolutionary hypocrites cloaked in the noble mantle of scepticism and satiated indifference is truly incomparable, is it not?

Thesis: we, “society”, are sitting in the mud. You, the Lefts, want to try and clean up the mud. Leave it alone, the mud does not bother us.

Proof: we are weary of attempts (not made by us) to clean up the mud. Our ideas about cleaning up are indecisive.

Conclusion: it is risky to touch the mud.

The arguments of the Malovers are of great significance for, we repeat, they truly reflect the mood that, in the final analysis, springs from the struggle of the classes in the Russian revolution. The fatigue of the bourgeoisie and its yearning for “light” literature constitute a phenomenon that is not accidental, but inevitable. The grouping of the population by parties—that was the most important lesson   and the revolution’s most important political acquisition at the time of the elections to the Second Duma—tellingly revealed, on a nation-wide scale, the turn to the Right taken by broad sections of the landlords and bourgeoisie. “Society” and “the intelligentsia” are simply a miserable, pitiful, basely cowardly appendage to the upper ten thousand.

The greater part of the bourgeois intelligentsia live with, and are fed by, those who have drawn away from politics. Only a few intellectuals enter the propaganda circles of the workers’ party, those who from experience know the “ravenous hunger” of the masses of the people for political books, newspapers and socialist knowledge. But of course such intellectuals, even if they do not go to an heroic death, lead the really heroic life of hard work of the poorly-paid, half-starved, constantly fatigued “rank-and-file Party worker” who is overworked beyond all belief. Such intellectuals find reward in getting away from the dung-heap of “society” and in not having to think of the indifference of their audience to social and political problems. And, indeed, an “intellectual” who cannot find himself an audience that is not in different to those problems as much resembles a “democrat” or an intellectual in the best sense of the word, as a woman who sells herself by marrying for money resembles a loving wife. Both are variations of officially respectable and perfectly legal prostitution.

The Left parties are really Left, and deserve that name, only insofar as they express the interests and reflect the psychology, not of “society”, not of a bunch of whining intellectualist trash, but the lower strata of the people, the proletariat and a certain section of the petty bourgeois masses, both urban and rural. The Left parties are those whose audiences are never indifferent to social and political problems any more than a hungry man can be indifferent to the problem of a crust of bread. “The campaign against the Duma” of those Left parties is a reflection of a definite tendency among the lower strata of the people, it is an echo of a certain—what shall we call it?—mass irritation with the self-satisfied Narcissuses who are infatuated with the dung-heaps about them.

One such Narcissus—Mr. Malover—writes: “The psychology of the masses of the people, in the period we are   living in is an absolutely unknown quantity, and nobody can be sure that these masses will react to the dissolution of the Second Duma differently from the way they reacted to the dissolution of the First Duma.”

In what way does this differ from the psychology of an honest woman in bourgeois society who says: “Nobody can say for sure that it is not for love I am marrying the one who pays me most”?

And your own feelings, madame, will they not serve to make anybody sure of it? And you, Maloyer & Co., do you not feel yourselves to be particles of the “masses of the people”? Do you not feel yourselves participants (and not mere onlookers)? Are you not conscious of being makers of the general mood, of being those who make for progress?

The bourgeoisie “cannot say for sure” that the proletariat will go forward from defeat to victory. The proletariat is sure that the bourgeoisie will distinguish itself by identical baseness both in the defeats and in the victories of the people in the struggle for freedom.

Let Social Democrats who are given to vacillation and doubt learn from the examples of the Malovers, learn to understand the reactionary nature today, not only of talk about the “one-sided hostile” stand taken by the Social-Democrats towards the liberals, but also of talk about a “nationwide” revolution (headed by the Malovers!?).


[1] Malover—pseudonym of the Cadet V. Portugalov. The Russian word “malover” means “one of little faith”.

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