V. I.   Lenin

On to the Straight Road[2]

Published: Published in the newspaper Proletary, No. 26, March 19 (April 1), 1908. Published according to the text in the newspaper.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1973, Moscow, Volume 15, pages 15-21.
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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The dissolution of the Second Duma[3] and the coup d’état of June 3, 19O7[4] were a turning-point in the history of our revolution, the beginning of a kind of special period or zigzag in its development. We have spoken more than once of the significance of this zigzag from the standpoint of the general relation of class forces in Russia and the tasks of the uncompleted bourgeois revolution. We want now to deal with the state of our Party work in connection with this turn of the revolution.

More than six months have passed since the reactionary coup of June 3, and beyond doubt this first half-year has been marked by a considerable decline and weakening of all revolutionary organisations, including that of the Social-Democrats. Wavering, disunity and disintegration—such have been the general features of this half-year. Indeed, it could not be otherwise, because the extreme intensification of reaction and its temporary triumph, coupled with a slowing-down in the direct class struggle, were bound to be accompanied by a crisis in the revolutionary parties.

Now there can be observed, and quite plainly, a number of symptoms showing that the crisis is coming to an end, that the worst is over, that the right road has already been found and that the Party is once again entering the straight road of consistent and sustained guidance of the revolutionary struggle of the socialist proletariat.

Take one of the very characteristic (by far not the most profound, of course, but probably among the most visible) external expressions of the Party crisis. I mean the flight of the intellectuals from the Party. This flight is strikingly characterised in the first issue of our Party’s Central Organ,[5] which appeared in February this year. This issue, which provides a great deal of material for assessing the Party’s internal life, is largely reproduced in this number. “Recently through lack of intellectual workers the area organisation has been dead,” writes a correspondent from the Kulebaki   Works (Vladimir area organisation of the Central Industrial Region). “Our ideological forces are melting away like snow,” they write from the Urals. “The elements who avoid illegal organisations in general ... and who joined the Party only at the time of the upsurge and of the de facto liberty that then existed in many places, have left our Party organisations.” And an article in the Central Organ entitled “Questions of Organisation” sums up these reports, and others which we do not print, with the words: “The intellectuals, as is well known, have been deserting in masses in recent months."

But the liberation of the Party from the half-proletarian, half-petty-bourgeois intellectuals is beginning to awake to a new life the new purely proletarian forces accumulated during the period of the heroic struggle of the proletarian masses. That same Kulebaki organisation which was, as the quotation from the report shows, in a desperate condition—-and was even quite “dead"—has been resurrected, it turns out. “Party nests among the workers [we read][1] scattered in large numbers throughout the area, in most cases without any intellectual forces, without literature, even without any connection with the Party Centres, don’t want to die.... The number of organised members is not decreasing but increasing.... There are no intellectuals, and the workers themselves, the most class-conscious among them, have to carry on propaganda work.” And the general conclusion reached is that “in a number of places responsible work, owing to the flight of the intellectuals, is passing into the hands of the advanced workers” (Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 1, p. 28).

This reconstruction of the Party organisations on, so to speak, a different class foundation is of course a difficult thing, and it is not likely to develop without some hesitations. But it is only the first step that is difficult; and that has already been made. The Party has already entered the straight road of leadership of the working masses by advanced “intellectuals” drawn from the ranks of the workers themselves.

Work in the trade unions and the co-operative societies, which was at first taken up gropingly, is now assuming definite shape. Two resolutions of the Central Committee, about the trade unions and the co-operative societies respectively, both adopted unanimously, were already suggested by the developing local activities. Party groups in all non-party organisations; their leadership in the spirit of the militant tasks of the proletariat, the spirit of revolutionary class struggle; “from non-party to Party ideology” (Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 1, p. 28)—this is the path upon which the working-class movement has entered in this field too. The correspondent of a Party organisation in the remote little provincial town of Minsk, reports: “The more revolutionary-minded workers are drawing apart from them [from the legal unions topsy-turvified by the administration] and are more and more sympathetic to the formation of illegal unions."

In the same direction, “from non-party to Party ideology”, is developing the work in quite a different sphere, that of the Social-Democratic group in the Duma. Strange though it may sound, it is a fact that we cannot all at once raise the work of our parliamentary representatives to a Party level—just as we did not all at once begin to work “in a Party way” in the co-operatives. Elected under a law which falsifies the will of the people, elected from the ranks of Social-Democrats who have preserved their legality, ranks which have thinned very greatly as a result of persecution during the first two Dumas, our Duma Social-Democrats in effect inevitably were at first non-party Social-Democrats rather than real members of the Party.

This is deplorable, but it is a fact—and it could hardly be otherwise in a capitalist country entangled by thou sands of bonds inherited from serfdom and with a legal workers’ party that has been in existence for only two years. And it was not only non-party people who wanted on this fact to base their tactics of setting up a non-revolutionary Social-Democracy, but also those “Bezzaglavtsi”[6] Social-Democrat-like intellectuals who clustered around the Duma group like flies round a honey-pot. But it seems as if the efforts of these worthy followers of Bernstein are suffering defeat! It seems as if the work of the Social-Democrats has   begun to straighten itself out in this sphere, too. We will not undertake to prophesy, nor shall we close our eyes to what vast efforts are still required to organise more or less tolerable parliamentary Social-Democratic work in our conditions. But we may note that in the first issue of the Central Organ there is Party criticism of the Duma group, and a direct resolution of the Central Committee about better direction for its work. We do not by any means consider that the criticism in the Central Organ covers all the defects. We think, for example, that the Social-Democrats should not have voted, either for placing the land taxes at the disposal of the Zemstvos[7] in the first instance, nor for purchase at a low price of urban land rented by the poor (No. 1 of the Central Organ, p. 36). But these are, comparatively speaking, minor questions. What is basic and most important is that the transformation of the Duma group into a really Party organisation now features in all our work, and that consequently the Party will achieve it, however bard this may be, and however the road may be beset with trials, vacillations, partial crises, personal clashes, etc.

Among the same signs that really Social-Democratic and genuinely Party work is being straightened out there is the obviously outstanding fact of the increase in illegal publications. “The Urals are publishing eight papers,” we read in the Central Organ. “There are two in the Crimea, one in Odessa, and a paper is starting soon in Ekaterinoslav. Publishing activity in St. Petersburg, in the Caucasus and by the non-Russian organisations is considerable.” In addition to the two Social-Democratic papers appearing abroad, the Central Organ has been issued in Russia, in spite of quite extraordinary police obstacles. A regional organ, Rabocheye Znamya,[8] will appear soon in the Central Industrial Region.

From all that has been said, one can form a quite definite picture of the path on which the Social-Democratic Party is firmly entering. A strong illegal organisation of the Party Centres, systematic illegal publications and— most important of all—local and particularly factory Party groups, led by advanced members from among the workers themselves, living in direct contact with the masses: such is the foundation on which we were building, and   have built, a hard and solid core of a revolutionary and Social-Democratic working-class movement. And this illegal core will spread its feelers, its influence, incomparably wider than ever before, both through the Duma and the trade unions, both in the co-operative societies and in the cultural and educational organisations.

At first sight there is a remarkable similarity between this system of Party work and that which was established by the Germans during the Anti-Socialist Law (1878-90).[9] The distance which the German working-class movement covered during the thirty years following the, bourgeois revolution (1848-78), the Russian working-class movement is covering in three years (from the end of 1905 to 1908). But behind this outward similarity is hidden a profound inward difference. The thirty-year period which followed the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Germany completely fulfilled the objectively necessary tasks of that revolution. It fulfilled itself in the constitutional parliament of the early sixties, in dynastic wars which united the greater part of German-speaking territories, and in the creation of the Empire with the help of universal suffrage. In Russia the three years which have not yet passed since the first great victory and the first great defeat of the bourgeois-democratic revolution not only have not fulfilled its tasks but, on the contrary, have for the first time spread realisation of those tasks among broad masses of the proletariat and the peasantry. What has been outlived during these two odd years is constitutional illusions and belief in the democratism of the liberal lackeys of Black-Hundred[10] tsarism.

A crisis on the basis of the unfulfilled objective tasks of the bourgeois revolution in Russia is inevitable. Purely economic, specifically financial, internal political and external events, circumstances and vicissitudes may make it acute. And the party of the proletariat—having entered the straight road of building a strong illegal Social-Democratic organisation, possessed of more numerous and more varied implements for legal and semi-legal influence than before—will be able to meet that crisis more prepared for resolute struggle than it was in October and December 1905.


[1] Interpolations in square brackets (within passages quoted by Lenin) have been introduced by Lenin, unless otherwise indicated.—Ed.

[2] The article “On to the Straight Road” was published as an editorial in the newspaper Proletary, No. 26.

Proletary (The Proletarian)—an illegal newspaper founded by the Bolsheviks after the Fourth (Unity) Congress of the Party; it was published from August 21 (September 3), 1906 to November 28 (December 11), 1909 under the editorship of Lenin. Proletary was published as the organ of the Moscow and St. Petersburg committees of the R.S.D.L.P., and, for a time, as that of the Moscow Area, the Perm, Kursk and Kazan committees. The paper was virtually the Central Organ of the Bolsheviks. Altogether fifty issues were put out—the first twenty in Finland, the rest abroad, in Geneva and Paris. The newspaper published over a hundred articles and other items by Lenin.

During the Stolypin reaction Proletary played an important role in preserving and strengthening the Bolshevik organisations.

At the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. in January 1910 the conciliators succeeded in obtaining a decision to close down the newspaper.

[3] The Duma—a representative body, which the tsarist government was compelled to convene as a result of the revolutionary events of 1905. Formally the Duma was a legislative body, but actually it had no real power. Elections to the Duma were non-direct, unequal and non-universal. The electoral system was rigged against the working classes and the non-Russian nationalities inhabiting Russia, while considerable numbers of workers and peasants had no vote at all. Under the electoral law of December 11(24), 1905, the vote of a landlord was equivalent to 3 votes of representatives of the town bourgeoisie, to 15 votes of the peasants, and to 45 votes of the workers. The First Duma (April-July 1906) and the Second Duma (February-June 1907) were-dissolved by the tsarist government. After carrying out the coup d’état of June 3, 1907, the government issued a new electoral law which still further curtailed the rights of the workers, peasants and petty bourgeoisie of the towns and ensured the complete domination of the reactionary bloc of the landlords and big capitalists in the Third (1907-12) and Fourth (1912-17) Dumas.

[4] Coup d’état of June 3(16), 1907—a reactionary act by which the government dissolved the Second Duma and altered the electoral   law. The new law greatly increased the representation of the land lords and the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie in the Duma and considerably reduced the already meagre representation of the workers and peasants. The law deprived most of the indigenous population of Asian Russia of the franchise and reduced by half the number of deputies returned by Poland and the Caucasus. The Third Duma, which was elected on the basis of this law and which assembled in November 1907, was a Duma of Black Hundreds and Cadets.

The coup d’état of June 3 ushered in the Stolypin reaction, which became known as “the Third-of-June regime”. p. 17

[5] Central Organ of the R.S.D.L.P.—the illegal newspaper Sotsial-Demokrat, published from February 1908 to January 1917. Fifty-eight issues appeared. Issue No. I came out in Russia, but thereafter the paper was published abroad, first in Paris, then in Geneva. The editorial board of the Central Organ, in accordance with a decision of the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., was made up of representatives of the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and Polish Social-Democrats. Over eighty articles and other items by Lenin were published in Sotsial-Demokrat. On the editorial board Lenin carried on a struggle for a consistent Bolshevik policy. Some of the board members (Kamenev and Zinoviev) adopted a conciliatory attitude towards the liquidators and tried to side-track Lenin’s line. The Menshevik editors, Martov and Dan, sabotaged the work of the editorial board while at the same time openly defending the liquidators in Golos Sotsial-Demokrata. Lenin’s uncompromising fight against the liquidators led to Martov and Dan retiring, from Sotsial-Demokrat in June 1911. From December 1911 onwards Sotsial-Demokrat was edited by Lenin.

[6] Bezzaglavtsi—from the title of the journal Bez Zaglaviya (Without a Title)—were organisers of, and contributors to, the journal published in St. Petersburg in 1906 by S. N. Prokopovich, Y. D. Kuskova, V. Y. Bogucharsky, and others. The journal openly advocated revisionism, supported the Mensheviks and liberals, and opposed an independent proletarian policy. Lenin called the group pro-Menshevik Cadets or pro-Cadet Mensheviks”.

[7] Zemstvo—the name given to the local government bodies formed in the central provinces of tsarist Russia in 1864. They were dominated by the nobility and their powers were limited to purely local economic problems (hospital and road building, statistics, insurance, etc.). Their activities were controlled by the Provincial Governors and by the Ministry of the Interior, which could rescind any decisions of which the government disapproved.

[8] Rabocheye Znamya (Worker’s Banner)—an illegal Bolshevik newspaper, organ of the Regional Bureau of the Central Industrial Region, of the Moscow and Moscow Area Committees of the R.S.D.L.P. Appeared in Moscow from March to December 1908. Seven issues were published.

[9] Anti-Socialist Law was introduced in Germany in 1878. Under this law all organisations of the Social-Democratic Party, the mass labour organisations and the labour press were banned, socialist literature was confiscated and the Social-Democrats were persecuted. Under pressure of the mass labour movement this law was repealed in 1890.

[10] The Black Hundreds—monarchist gangs formed by the tsarist police to fight against the revolutionary movement. They assassinated revolutionaries, organised attacks on progressive intellectuals, and carried out anti-Jewish pogroms.

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