Proletary, Nos. 14 and 15, March 4 and 25, 1907.
Published according to the Proletary text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 208-218.
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 Party congress, as we know, is to be convened in a few weeks from now. We must most energetically set about preparations for the congress, get down to a discussion of the basic tactical problems on which the Party must take decisions at the congress.
The Central Committee of our Party has already out lined an agenda for the Congress, which has been announced in the press. The chief items on the agenda are: (1) The Immediate Political Tasks and (2) The State Duma. As far as the second item is concerned, its necessity is obvious and cannot give rise to objections. In our opinion, the first item is also essential, but should be worded somewhat differently, or, rather, should have its content somewhat changed.
For a general Party discussion on the tasks of the congress and the tactical problems it has to solve to begin immediately, a conference of representatives of the two metropolitan organisations of our Party and the editorial board of Proletary drew up, on the eve of the convocation of the Second Duma, the draft resolutions printed below. We intend to give an outline of how the conference under stood its tasks, why it gave first place to draft resolutions on certain questions, and what basic ideas were included in these resolutions.
Item One: The Immediate Political Tasks.
In our opinion the question must not be presented to a congress of the R.S.D.L.P. in this way in the times we are living through. This is a revolutionary epoch. All Social-Democrats, irrespective of the groups they belong to, are agreed on this. The correctness of our postulate will be borne out by a glance at that part of the resolution adopt ed by the Mensheviks and the Bundists at the All-Russian Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. in November 1906, which deals with principles.
In a revolutionary epoch it is impermissible to limit oneself to defining immediate political tasks, impermissible for two reasons. Firstly, in such epochs the basic tasks of the Social-Democratic movement are given first place, and they must be analysed in detail, not as is customary in times of “peaceful” and petty constitutional development. In the second place, it is impermissible to define the immediate political tasks, because a revolution is marked precisely by the possibility and inevitability of sharp changes, sudden turns, unexpected situations, and violent outbursts. To appreciate this, one has only to mention the possible and probable dissolution of the Left Duma and changes in the election law in the spirit of the Black Hundreds.
It was all very well for the Austrians, for instance, to define their “immediate” task as the struggle for universal suffrage, when there was every indication that the more or less peaceful epoch of uninterrupted and consistent constitutional development would continue. In our country, do not even the Mensheviks speak in the above resolution of the impossibility of a peaceful path, of the need to elect fighters to the Duma, and not petitioners? Do they not recognise the struggle for a constituent assembly? Try to imagine a European country with a settled constitutional system likely to endure for some time, in which such slogans as “constitutional assembly”, the antithesis of “petitioner” and “fighter” in the Duma could find currency, and you will realise that the “immediate” tasks cannot be defined as they now are in the West. The more successful the work of the Social-Democrats and revolutionary bourgeois democrats in the Duma, the more probable will be an outburst of struggle outside the Duma which will confront us with immediate tasks of a special kind.
No. It is not so much the immediate tasks as the proletariat’s basic tasks at the present moment of the bourgeois revolution that have to be discussed at the Party congress. If this is not done, we shall find ourselves in the position of helpless people who lose themselves at every turn taken by events (as happened a number of times in 1906). In any case the “immediate” tasks cannot be defined, just as nobody can say whether the Second Duma and the Election Law of December 11, 1905, will last a week, a month or six months. So far, the basic tasks of the Social-Democratic proletariat in our revolution have not yet been elaborated by our Party as a whole. And without such an elaboration no mature, principled policy is possible, and no pursuit of the definition of “immediate” tasks can be successful.
The Unity Congress did not adopt a resolution with an appraisal of the present moment or a definition of the proletariat’s tasks in the revolution, although the necessary drafts were presented by both trends in the Social-Democratic Party, and the question of the appraisal of the situation stood on the agenda and was discussed at the congress. Consequently, the importance of these questions was recognised by everybody, though the majority at the Stockholm Congress considered that at that time they had not been made sufficiently clear. An analysis of these questions must be resumed. We must examine: firstly, the nature of the present revolutionary situation from the standpoint of the general tendencies of social, economic and political development; secondly, the political grouping of classes (and parties) in Russia today; thirdly, the basic tasks of the Social-Democratic Labour Party in this situation and with this political grouping of the social forces.
We do not, of course, close our eyes to the fact that some Mensheviks (and perhaps the Central Committee) understood the question of the immediate political tasks to be simply one of supporting the demand for a Duma, i.e., a Cadet, ministry.
Plekhanov, with his customary—of course, highly praise worthy—impetuosity in pushing the Mensheviks further to the Right, has already risen in defence of this demand in Russkaya Zhizn (February 23).
We believe that this is an important but subordinate question, which Marxists cannot pose separately, without an assessment of the present situation in our revolution, without an assessment of the class content of the Constitutional-Democratic Party and its entire political role today. To reduce this question to pure politicising, to the “principle” of the ministry’s responsibility to the Chamber in a constitutional system in general, would mean wholly abandoning the point of view of the class struggle and going over to the point of view of the liberal.
For this reason, our conference linked the question of the Cadet ministry with the assessment of the present situation in the revolution.
In the appropriate resolution we, first and foremost, begin, in the preamble, with the question which all Marxists recognise as basic, that of the economic crisis and the economic condition of the masses. The conference adopted the formula: “the crisis shows no signs of early abatement”. This formula is probably far too cautious. But it is, of course, important for the Social-Democratic Party to establish indisputable facts, note the basic features, and leave a scholarly elaboration of it to Party literature.
We affirm that on account of the crisis (point two of the preamble) there has been a sharpening of the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie (an undoubted fact, and the manifestations of this sharpening are common knowledge), and also a sharpening of the social struggle in the countryside. There are, in the countryside, no out standing events that make themselves prominent, like lock-outs, but such government measures as the November agrarian laws (“bribery of the peasant bourgeoisie”) prove that the struggle is growing sharper, that the landlords are compelled to devote their efforts to splitting the peasantry in order to weaken the pressure exerted by the peasantry as a whole.
What these efforts will ultimately lead to we do not know. All “uncompleted” (Marx’s expression) bourgeois revolutions “ended” with the defection of the well-to-do peasantry to the side of law and order. In any case, Social-Democracy must do everything possible to develop the political consciousness of the widest strata. of the peasantry, and make clear to them the class struggle that is going on in the countryside.
Further, the third point states the basic fact in the political history of Russia for the past year—the “rightward” swing of the upper and the “leftward” swing of the lower classes. We thought that, particularly in a revolutionary epoch, Social-Democracy should, at its congresses, sum up the periods of social development, applying its own Marxist methods of analysis to them and teaching other classes to glance back and view political events from the stand point of principle, not from the standpoint of the interests of the moment or the achievements of a few days in the way the bourgeoisie do—the bourgeoisie actually despise all theory and are afraid of any class analysis of recent history.
The strengthening of the extremes means the weakening of the Centre. The Centre—that is the Cadets, not the Octobrists as some Social-Democrats (Martov among them) erroneously thought. What is the objective historical task of that party? That is a question the Marxists must answer if they want to remain true to their theory. The resolution answers: “to halt the revolution by offering concessions acceptable [since the Constitutional-Democrats favour a voluntary agreement] to the Black-Hundred landlords and the autocracy”. In Karl Kautsky’s well-known book The Social Revolution it was made perfectly clear that reform differs from revolution in that it preserves the power of the oppressor class which suppresses the insurrection of the oppressed by means of concessions that are acceptable to the oppressors and do not destroy their power.
The liberal bourgeoisie’s objective task in the bourgeois-democratic revolution is precisely that—to preserve the monarchy and the landlord class at the cost of “reasonable” concessions.
Is this task a feasible one? That depends on circumstances. The Marxist cannot admit that it is absolutely infeasible. But such an outcome of the bourgeois revolution signifies: (1) a minimum of freedom for the development of the productive forces of bourgeois society (the economic progress of Russia would undoubtedly be more rapid if landed proprietorship were abolished by the revolution than if it were reformed as planned by the Cadets); (2) the basic needs of the popular masses would not be met and (3) it would be necessary to suppress those masses by force. The Cadets’ “peaceful” constitutional development cannot be effected except by the suppression of the masses. This is something we must never forget, something we must make the masses fully conscious of. The Cadet “social peace is peace for the land and factory owner, the “peace” of a suppressed peasants’ and workers’ insurrection.
Repressions by Stolypin’s military courts arid the Cadet “reforms” are the two hands of one and the same oppressor.
Eight days have elapsed since our first article on this subject was published, and a number of important events in political life have confirmed the truth of what we then said, and have cast the glaring light of an “accomplished fact” (or one that is still being accomplished?) on the urgent questions dealt with.
The Cadet swing to the Right has already made itself felt in the Duma. The Rodichevs’ support of Stolypin in preaching moderation, caution, legality, tranquillity, and not arousing the people, and Stolypin’s support for Rodichev, his famous “all-round” support, are now fact.
This fact has fully borne out the correctness of our analysis of the present political situation, an analysis made in the draft resolutions compiled between February 15 and 18, before the opening of the Second Duma. We refused to accept the Central Committee’s proposal and to discuss “immediate political tasks”. We showed that such a proposal was absolutely groundless in a revolutionary epoch, and we substituted the question of the fundamentals of socialist policy in the bourgeois revolution for the question of a policy for the moment.
And a week of revolutionary development has followed the pattern we anticipated.
On the last occasion, we examined the preamble to our draft resolution. The central feature of that part of the draft was a statement to the effect that the weakened party of the “Centre”, that is, the bourgeois-liberal Constitutional-Democratic Party, was striving to halt the revolution by means of concessions acceptable to the Black-Hundred landowners and the autocracy.
It was only yesterday, as it were, that Plekhanov and his Right-wing following in the R.S.D.L.P. asserted that this Bolshevik idea, Which we persistently defended through out 1906 (and even earlier, ever since 1905, ever since the publication of the pamphlet Two Tactics), was a semi-fantastic surmise born of rebel views on the role of our bourgeoisie, or that it was to say the least an untimely warning, etc.
Today everyone can see that we were right. The “striving” of the Cadets is beginning to materialise, and even a newspaper like Tovarishch, which probably more than any other hates Bolshevism for its ruthless exposure of the Cadets, said, with reference to the rumours, refuted by Rech, of negotiations between the Cadets and the Black-Hundred government, that “there is no smoke without fire”.
We can only welcome this revival of “Bolshevik week” in Tovarishch. We can only mention that history has confirmed the correctness of all our warnings and slogans; history has exposed the thoughtlessness (thoughtlessness at best) of those “democrats”—and, unfortunately, of some Social-Democrats—who would not accept our criticism of the Cadets.
Who said, at the time of the First Duma, that the Cadets were bargaining with the government behind the backs of the people? The Bolsheviks did. And then it turned out that a personage like Trepov was in favour of a Cadet ministry.
Who conducted the most energetic campaign of all for the exposure of Milyukov’s visit to Stolypin on January 15 at the height of the election struggle (allegedly a struggle) of the party of so-called people’s freedom against the government? The Bolsheviks did.
Who, at the election meetings in St. Petersburg and during the first days of the Second Duma (see Novy Luch), recalled that in 1906 the loan of 2,000 million francs was actually a gift made to Dubasov & Co., with the indirect aid of the Constitutional-Democrats, who rejected Clemenceau’s formal proposal to come out openly, in the name of the party, against that loan? The Bolsheviks did.
Who, on the eve of the Second Duma, made the exposure of the “treacherous nature of Constitutional-Democratic policy” the corner-stone of their policy of consistent (i.e., proletarian) democracy? The Bolsheviks did.
All talk of supporting the demand for a Duma ministry or a responsible ministry, or the demand to subordinate executive to legislative power, etc., was blown away like down by the first breeze that blew. Plekhanov’s dream of making this slogan the signal for a decisive battle, or the means of educating the masses, proved to be the dream of a well-meaning philistine. Probably no one would now dare give such slogans serious support. Experience has shown— or, rather, is beginning to show—that the issue involved is by no means the “principle” of a fuller or more consistent implementation of “constitutional fundamentals”, but the fact of a deal made between the Cadets and the reactionaries. Experience has shown that those were right who behind the liberal exterior of an allegedly progressive general principle, recognised and demonstrated the narrow class interests of the frightened liberal who gave pleasant names to disgusting and filthy things.
The correctness of the conclusions of our first resolution has, therefore, been confirmed much sooner than we could have expected, and confirmed much more satisfactorily— by history and not by logic, by deeds and not by words, by the events of the revolution and not by the edicts of the Social-Democrats.
First conclusion: “the political crisis that is developing before our eyes is not a constitutional but a revolutionary crisis leading to a direct struggle of the proletarian and the peasant masses against the autocracy.”
Second conclusion, proceeding directly from the first: “the forthcoming Duma campaign must therefore be regarded merely as one of the episodes in the people’s revolutionary struggle for power, and must be utilised as such.”
What is the essential difference between a constitutional and a revolutionary crisis? The difference is that the former may be resolved on the basis of existing fundamental laws and institutions of the state, while the latter requires the smashing of those laws and feudal institutions. Until now, the idea expressed in our conclusions has been shared by all Russian Social-Democrats, irrespective of group.
It is only recently that there has been a growth of that tendency among the Mensheviks which inclines to the opposite view, to the view that all thought of a revolutionary struggle should be abandoned, that we should stop at the present “constitution”, and use it as ground to work on. Here are some noteworthy points from the draft resolution on the attitude to the State Duma compiled by “Comrades Dan, Koltsov, Martynov, Martov, Negorev and others, with a group of practicians participating”; it was published in Russkaya Zhizn, No. 47 (and also as a separate leaflet):
“...(2) the task of the direct struggle for power that is becoming the central feature of the Russian revolution, is, under the existing alignment of social forces [?], reduced [?] mainly to the question [?] of the struggle for [?] popular representation;
“...(3) the elections to the Second Duma, by revealing a considerable number of consistent [?] supporters of the revolution, have shown that among the masses of the people there is a growing consciousness of the necessity for this [?] struggle for power....”
No matter how muddled and evasive the wording of these points may be, the trend is clearly visible—instead of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and the peasantry for power, reduce the tasks of the workers’ party to that of the liberal struggle for the existing popular representation or on the basis of it. We must wait and see whether all Mensheviks, at the present moment or at the Fifth Congress, really accept this presentation of the question.
In any case, the rightward swing of the Cadets and Stolypin’s “all-round” approval of them will soon compel the Right wing in our Party to make an issue of the question: either continue the policy of support for the Cadets and thereby irrevocably enter on the path of opportunism, or discontinue all support of the Cadets and accept the policy of the socialist independence of the proletariat and of the struggle for the liberation of the democratic petty bourgeoisie from the influence and hegemony of the Cadets.
The third conclusion drawn by our resolution is that, “as the party of the advanced class, the Social-Democratic Party cannot under any circumstances at present support the Cadet policy in general or a Cadet ministry in particular. The Social-Democrats must bend every effort to expose the treacherous nature of this policy to the masses; they must explain to them the revolutionary tasks confronting them; they must show the masses that only when they attain a high level of political consciousness and are strongly organised can possible concessions by the autocracy be converted from an instrument of deception and corruption into an instrument for the further development of the revolution.”
We do not altogether deny the possibility of partial concessions, and do not say that we shall not take advantage of them. The text of the resolution does not leave any doubt on this score. It is also possible that a Cadet ministry will in some way or another come under the heading of “concessions by the autocracy”. But the party of the working class, while not rejecting this “payment on account” (Engels’s expression), must under no circumstances forget the other particularly important aspect of the matter, which is often lost sight of by the liberals and opportunists—the role of “concessions” as an instrument of deception and corruption.
If the Social-Democrat does not want to turn into a bourgeois reformist, he must never forget this aspect of the matter. The Mensheviks unpardonably forget it when, in the aforementioned resolution, they say “...Social-Democ racy will support all efforts of the Duma to subordinate executive power to itself...”. “Efforts of the Duma” means the efforts of the majority in the Duma. The Duma majority may, as experience has shown, be formed from Rights and Constitutional-Democrats against the Lefts. “The efforts” of such a majority could subordinate “executive power” to itself in such a way as to worsen the condition of the people, or deceive them outright.
Let us hope that the Mensheviks are merely over-enthusiastic in this respect: that they will not support all the efforts of the majority in the present Duma in this field. It is typical, of course, that prominent leaders of Menshevism could have accepted such a formulation.
The Cadets’ swing to the Right actually compels all Social-Democrats, irrespective of group allegiance, to adopt the policy of refusing to support the Cadets, to adopt the policy of exposing their treachery, the policy of an independent and consistent revolutionary party of the working class.
 See pp. 133-44 of this volume.—Ed.
 These lines had already been written when we read the following in the Rech leading article for March 13: “When the exact details of the notorious negotiations between the Cadets and the government in June of last year are published, the country will learn that if the Cadets can be reproached for anything in connection with these negotiations behind the ’backs of the people’, it is for that obstinacy of which Rossiya speaks.” Of course, “when they are published”! But so far the Cadets, despite the challenges that have been made, have not published “exact details” of the negotiations in June 1906, or those of January 1907 (January 15—Milyukov’s visit to Stolypin), or those of March 1907. Nevertheless the negotiations behind the backs of the people are a fact.—Lenin
 February 24, 1907.—Lenin
 See Note 1.
 The November agrarian laws were drawn up by Stolypin and promulgated by the tsarist government in November 1906. On November 9 (22), 1906, a decree was published on “Some Amendments to Existing Laws on Peasant Landownership and Land Tenure”, which, after its passage through the Duma and the Council of State became known as the law of June 14, 1910; on November 15 (28), 4906, a decree was issued on “The Granting of Loans by the Peasant Land Bank on the Security of Allotment Lands”. These laws gave the peasants the right to convert their allotment land into private property and the right to leave the commune with a plot of land or a separate farmstead. Peasants leaving the commune could obtain a loan from the bank to acquire land. The purpose of the Stolypin laws was to create a class of kulak farmers as a bulwark of the autocracy in the countryside, to preserve the landed estates and break up the communes by force.
Stolypin’s agrarian policy accelerated the capitalist evolution of agriculture by the most painful, “Prussian” method, retaining the power, property and privileges of the semi-feudal landowners; it increased the expropriation by force of the peasant masses and accelerated the formation of a peasant bourgeoisie able to buy up the lands of the poor peasants at a nominal price.
Lenin said that Stolypin’s agrarian legislation in 1906 (and the law published on June 14 , 1910) was the second step (the Reform of 1861 was the first) towards turning the feudal autocracy into a bourgeois monarchy. “Stolypin has granted the old regime and the old feudal system of land tenure ’a new lease of life’ by opening the last valve that could be opened without confiscating all the landed estates,” wrote Lenin (see present edition, Vol. 18, “The Last Valve”). Although the government conducted extensive propaganda for the peasants to leave the communes, only about two and a half million peasant families in European Russia did so in the nine years from 1907 to 1915. First and foremost it was the rural bourgeoisie who took advantage of the right to leave the communes and thereby improve their farms. Some of the poor peasants also left the communes in order to sell their allotments and leave the land for ever. The petty peasant farms, weighed down by want, still remained beggarly and backward.
Stolypin’s agrarian policy did not remove the chief contradiction—that between the peasantry and the landowners—but led to the even greater ruin of the masses of the peasantry and the sharpening of class contradictions between the kulaks and the village poor.
 At the sitting of the Second State Duma on March 7 (20), 1907, when the question of aid for the famine-stricken was being discussed, the Social-Democratic group, supported by the S.R.’s, the Popular Socialists and part of the Trudoviks, tabled a proposal to set up a Duma Food Commission to go thoroughly into government actions to help the famine-stricken in the 1905-07 period and to examine the way in which funds had been spent. The Social-Democratic group proposed that the question be studied not only from the reports, but by investigation on the spot.
The Cadet Deputy Rodichev spoke against the proposal of the Social-Democratic group and moved that the commission’s competency be limited to an examination of ministerial report in St. Petersburg, “within the framework of the law”, stating as the motive for his proposal that it was essential to “preserve the authority of the Duma” and not desirable to arouse the people. Rodichev ’s speech was fully approved by the government. Stolypin said that “the government is in complete agreement with Rodichev’s proposal”.
 Rossiya (Russia)—the daily official newspaper of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; it was controlled by the police and the Black Hundreds. Published in St. Petersburg from 1905 to 1914.
 Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, p. 553.