V. I.   Lenin

Petty-Bourgeois Tactics

Written: Written on February 22 (March 7), 1907
Published: Published in Novy Luch, No. 4, on February 23, 1907. Published according to the newspaper text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 165-169.
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

The newspaper Tovarishch of February 21 carries excerpts from the decisions adopted at the recent extraordinary congress of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. These decisions are devoted to the tactics to be adopted in the Duma.

A lot might and should be said about these decisions. We cannot deal here with the fundamental error of these and all other decisions of the Socialist-Revolutionaries— their failure to analyse the different parties from the class point of view. No tactics worthy of the name can be elaborated without such an analysis. We shall frequently have occasion to return to this subject when we compare the decisions of the Socialist-Revolutionaries with the platform of the revolutionary Social-Democrats (the resolutions adopted at a conference of representatives from several Bolshevik organisations, which met from February 15 to February 18[1] ; they are to be published within the next few days.[2]

Nor shall we go into the somewhat excessive emphasis which the Socialist-Revolutionaries place on the elementary truth that the revolutionaries have no desire at all to “create extraneous [?], unessential conflicts”, to “hasten the dissolution of the Duma”, and the like. That is a mere detail.

From the point of view of the immediate tasks of the day, the following decision is the kernel of the Socialist-Revolutionary tactics:

“4. The Congress is of the opinion that strict party alignments within the Duma, ’with each group acting on its own in isolated fashion, and bitter strife among the groups, might completely paralyse the activity of the opposition majority, and thus discredit, in the minds of the working classes, the very idea of popular representation. The Congress therefore considers it essential that the party deputies exert every effort to organise the most constant and co-ordinated action on the part of all the socialist and extreme Left party groups; particularly in questions of the fight against the Rights in the Duma and against the government, for liberties and political rights for the people, it is essential to strive in each individual case for the most co-ordinated actions on the part of the revolutionary and socialist section of the Duma in conjunction with the opposition. Moreover, all these co-ordinated actions, both long-term and partial, must be conducted along lines which do not conflict in any way with the fundamental principles of the party programme and tactics.”

What a splendid exposition of the fundamental principles of petty-bourgeois tactics! What a splendid demonstration of their flimsiness!

“Long-term [!] and partial co-ordinated actions”, “the most constant [!] and co-ordinated”.... How empty these words are in the absence of any attempt to explain just what community of interests of just what classes lie at the root of all this “co-ordination”! We revolutionary Social-Democrats favour joint actions by the party of the proletariat and the parties of the democratic petty bourgeoisie against the Black Hundreds and against the Cadets, as the party of treacherous liberalism. The Socialist-Revolutionaries are so far from understanding this class foundation of the Russian revolution that, on the one hand, they talk about co-ordination of the socialist and extreme Left groups in general, i.e., about concealing the contradictions between the proletarian and the small producer; and, on the other hand, they talk about co-ordinated action by the revolutionary and socialist section of the Duma with the opposition, against the Black Hundreds.

No, gentlemen, we shall not even discuss permanent agreements, or co-ordinated action in general. You must first agree with us on the policy of fighting both the Black-Hundreds   and the Cadets—agree in deed. That is our ultimatum. That is our line of policy in the democratic revolution. We shall declare in regard to any question arising in the present revolution, as we declared during the St. Petersburg elections—the proletariat goes unhesitatingly into battle both against the Black Hundreds and against the Cadets. As long as the petty bourgeois vacillate, as long as they follow the Cadets—unrelenting war against the petty bourgeois. You have abandoned your Cadets? You agree to oppose the Cadets? If that is actually so, if that is not a mere paper declaration but something you prove in action, then, and only then, will the Social-Democrats fight together with you in democratic action.

But the most remarkable thing, I should say, is the beginning of the resolution just quoted. Just think of it: “strict party alignments within the Duma”, “bitter strife among the groups”[3] may “discredit, in the minds of the working classes, the very idea of popular representation”. Veritable Socialist-Revolutionary “Plekhanovs”, in the Vasilyev sense of the word![4]

No, gentlemen. The principle of class struggle is the very foundation of all Social-Democratic teachings and of all Social-Democratic policy. The proletarians, the peasants, and the townspeople are not such babes in arms that the idea of representation can be dimmed in their minds by bitter disputes, or by the acute struggle between the classes. Our job is not to be sugary to them, but, on the contrary, to teach them, from the Duma platform, to distinguish clearly between the parties and to understand their class roots, which the sly bourgeoisie keep buried deep underground.

That is just what is so criminal about the Menshevik policy in the Duma—they will not, or cannot, tell the people from the Duma platform the whole truth about the class nature of the various parties, about the Milyukovs’ secret haggling with the Stolypins, about the fundamental difference between the democratic aims of the peasant and those of the liberal, between the socialist aims of the peasant and those of the proletarian.

But the world holds other things besides this policy of the Mensheviks, inaugurated by their silent voting at the dictates of the Cadets.

This complete failure to understand the class roots of the “oppositional” liberalism that is secretly trading away freedom and democracy to the Stolypin gang, underlies the opportunist tactics pursued by the petty bourgeois (the Trudoviks, the Popular Socialists, and the Socialist-Revolutionaries) and the petty-bourgeois wing of the workers party—the Mensheviks.

The fight against the Black Hundreds is just a blind, a specious pretext. In actual fact these petty-bourgeois tactics are applied on occasions when there is no possibility whatsoever of a Black-Hundred victory. Such was the case, for example, in the St. Petersburg elections and in the election of the chairman of the Duma. The real essence of petty-bourgeois tactics is this: both the Trudoviks (the Socialist-Revolutionaries are fictitiously independent; in actual fact they are bound up with the Trudoviks, are simply the Left wing of that group. This was proved by the St. Petersburg elections; it is being proved once more by the present party alignments inside the Second Duma)—both the Trudoviks and the Mensheviks give support to the leadership of the Cadets. Not only in Russia, but all over Europe as well, the liberals have long kept the democratic petty bourgeoisie in tow, for it is too disunited, too undeveloped, too irresolute to act independently—and too much of the proprietor in inclination to follow the proletariat. That is the Achilles heel of petty-bourgeois policy— its inability and incapacity to cast off the ideological and political hegemony of the liberal bourgeois. It is no mere chance that the petty bourgeois tag along behind the Cadets; it is a result of the basic economic features in any   capitalist society. The Social-Democrats’ fundamental task—one that is absolutely alien to the Menshevik mind— lies, therefore, in an unflagging effort to break down the hegemony of the liberals over the democrats, an unflagging effort to Liberate the petty-bourgeois masses from Cadet tutelage and bring them under the influence and leadership of Social-Democracy.

The Trudovik proposes “constant and co-ordinated actions”. No, thank you! We refuse to have dealings with people who yearn for the Cadets as the drunkard yearns for his glass, with people who for months begged for admittance into a bloc with the Cadets in the St. Petersburg elections, flocked like sheep to the Cadet meeting on February 19, and gave their votes to a Cadet, to a trader in democracy?[5] No, thank you!


[1] Today’s Sovremennaya Rech[6] (February 22), on page 3, correctly reports the composition of this conference, and prints an excerpt of one of the six resolutions it adopted. Readers should bear in mind that there are several inaccuracies even in this excerpt.—Lenin

[2] See pp. 133-44 of this volume.—Ed.

[3] Rech of February 22 carried a special article, immediately following its editorial, on the resolutions of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. Citing precisely this passage on the harmfulness of “strict party alignments”, the organ of the liberal bourgeoisie declares: “Thus we have an absolutely correct definition of the point of departure of the new tactics.” Precisely! The tactics of the Socialist-Revolutionaries are correct from the point of view of the interests of the liberal bourgeoisie in general, and of its deal with the reactionaries in particular!—Lenin

[4] See present edition, Vol. 11, p. 424.—Ed.

[5] See pp. 161-64 of this volume.—Ed.

[6] Sovremennaya Rech (The Modern Word)—a liberal bourgeois daily newspaper published in St. Petersburg from January to May 1907; it supported the Cadets.

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