V. I.   Lenin

The First Important Step

Written: February 21, 1907
Published: Novy Luch, No. 2, February 21, 1907. Published according to the text in Novy Luch.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 161-164.
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.
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St. Petersburg, February 21, 1907.

Yesterday we expressed the hope that the Mensheviks, who have fine words to say in Russkaya Zhizn[1] on the in dependence of Social-Democracy, would pursue a correct policy.

On the evening of the day before yesterday a Cadet meeting was held that shattered all those hopes....

This is what happened.

After lunch on February 19, the Social-Democratic Duma group held a meeting. It was proposed that they should attend a private conference arranged by the Cadets. Some of the deputies objected strenuously. They said that it was a disgrace for working-class deputies to go to liberal bourgeois who were bargaining with Stolypin, and that the Social-Democrats should pursue a proletarian and not a Cadet policy, should not lead the peasants to the liberal landowner, and should not assist the formation of a Cadet “Left” bloc. The Mensheviks got their own decision adopted.

On the evening of February 19, a meeting of some 300 members of the Duma “opposition” was held at Dolgorukov’s apartment. It was attended by Cadets, Narodowci (Polish Black-Hundred bourgeois nationalists), all the Lefts—Trudoviks, S.R.’s and ... Social-Democrats. Some of the Social-Democrat deputies did not go to the Cadets.

What happened at the meeting at the Cadet’s apartment?

At this meeting all the Lefts, all democrats, petty bourgeois (Narodniks, Trudoviks, S.R.’s) and all Cadet-like Social-Democrats signed the Cadet proposals. According to Tovarishch, the Mensheviks made the formal proviso that their decision was not final, they would still have to   consult the group. According to Rech (the Cadet central newspaper) however, nobody made any proviso at all.

And so, there were Social-Democrats who, like faithful servants of the liberals, accepted their entire plan, gave the majority of seats in the presidium (two out of three) to the Cadets, and agreed to the Trudoviks taking the third place, thus tying up the Trudoviks with the Cadets, and agreed to refrain from explaining to the people what political significance the selection of the presidium has, or why it is obligatory for every conscientious citizen to decide that question from the standpoint of party alignment, and not by private arrangement behind the scenes.

Can such conduct be justified by the fear that a Black-Hundred presidium would be elected in the Duma? No. In Comrade P. Orlovsky’s article of yesterday, we demonstrated that the Black Hundreds could not win, whatever the division of votes between the Cadets and the Lefts.

The Menshevik policy is actually determined, not by the danger of a Black-Hundred victory, but by the desire to render service to the liberals.

What must the policy of the Social-Democrats be?

Either abstain, and, as socialists, stand aside from the liberals, who betray liberty and exploit the people, or give the lead to the democratic petty bourgeoisie that is capable of struggle, both against the Black Hundreds and against the liberals.

The former policy is obligatory for socialists when there is no longer any substantial difference between any of the bourgeois parties from the standpoint of the struggle for democracy. That is what happens in Europe. There is no revolution. All the bourgeois parties have lost the ability to struggle for democracy, and are struggling only for the petty, selfish interests of big or small proprietors. Under such circumstances, Social-Democracy alone defends the interests of democracy, and in so doing persistently unfolds its own socialist views to the masses.

The latter policy is obligatory when the conditions of a bourgeois-democratic revolution obtain, when, in addition to the working class, there are certain bourgeois and petty-bourgeois strata capable of struggle for the democracy that is essential to the proletariat.

In present-day Russia the second policy is obligatory. Without ever forgetting their socialist agitation and propaganda, and the organisation of the proletarians into a class, Social-Democrats must, jointly with the democratic petty bourgeoisie, crush both the Black Hundreds and the liberals, as the situation may demand.

That is because the liberals (Cadets, Polish Narodowci (?), the Party of Democratic Reform, etc., etc.) have already turned emphatically away from the revolution and have entered into a deal with the autocracy against the people’s freedom they talk so falsely about. It has now even transpired that last year the Cadets helped the government obtain 2,000 million from France to spend on summary military courts and shootings; Clemenceau said out right to the Cadets that there would be no loan if the Cadet Party came out officially against it. The Cadets refused to oppose the loan for fear of losing their position as the government party of the morrow! Russia was shot down, not only by Trepov’s machine-guns, but by the Franco-Cadet millions.

It is impermissible for revolutionary Social-Democrats to support the hegemony of the Cadets. It is, however, not enough for them to have spoken against going to the Cadet meeting on February 19. They must demand, categorically and unconditionally, that the group break with the Cadet-like policy and come out forthrightly and openly in the Duma with an independent policy of the proletariat.

On the question of the presidium, the Social-Democrats should have said: we do not want our own presidium. We support the whole list of Lefts or Trudoviks against the Cadets, that is, we support all three candidates for the presidium, against the Cadet candidates, and will abstain if the Trudoviks follow in the wake of the Cadets, despite our warnings. In any case it would be essential to put up a candidate from the Lefts even though there would be no chance of his being elected; at the first voting, the number of votes given for him would show what forces the Social-Democrats could rely on in the event of a struggle against the Cadets. And if it should turn out that he obtained more votes than the Cadet, even if it were less than the absolute majority required for election, the voting would show   the people clearly that this is not a Cadet Duma, and that the Cadet is not everything in the Duma.

The election of the presidium is not a mere bagatelle. It is the first step, after which others will follow. The die is cast.

There must be either a Cadet-like policy which would mean turning the Social-Democrats into an appendage to the liberals;

or there must be the policy of revolutionary Social-Democracy, in which case we should not begin by kowtowing to the Cadets, but by openly unfurling our own banner. Then we would not go to the Cadets. Then we would call on the petty bourgeoisie, and especially on the peasant democracy, to do battle against both the Black Hundreds and the liberals.


[1] Russkaya Zhizn (Russian Life) — a Left-Cadet legal daily, published in St. Petersburg from January 1 (14), 1907. On February 14 (27), from its thirty-eighth issue, the newspaper was taken over by the Mensheviks; its contributors included P. B. Axelrod, F. I. Dan, V. I. Zasulich, L. Martov, G. V. Plekhanov. The newspaper was banned on March 2 (15).

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