V. I. Lenin

Concerning Vekhi{3}

Published: Novy Dyen No. 15, December 13, 1909. Signed: V. Ilyin. Published according to the text in Novy Dyen.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1974], Moscow, Volume 16, pages 123-131.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2004 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.  

The well-known symposium Vekhi, compiled from contributions by the most influential Constitutional-Democratic publicists, which has run through several editions in a short time and has been rapturously received by the whole reactionary press, is a real sign of the times. However much the Cadet newspapers do to “rectify” particular passages in Vekhi that are excessively nauseating, however much it is repudiated by some Cadets who are quite powerless to influence the policy of the Constitutional-Democratic Party as a whole or are aiming to deceive the masses as to the true significance of this policy, it is an unquestionable fact that “Vekhihas expressed the unmistakable essence of modern Cadetism. The party of the Cadets is the party of Vekhi.

Prizing above everything the development of the political and class-consciousness of the masses, working-class democrats should welcome Vekhi as a magnificent exposure of the essence of the political trend of the Cadets by their ideological leaders. The gentlemen who have written Vekhi are: Berdayev, Bulgakov, Herschensohn, Kistyakovsky, Struve, Frank and Izgoyev. The very names of these well-known deputies, Well-known renegades and well-known Cadets, are eloquent enough. The authors of Vekhi speak as real ideological leaders, of a whole social trends They give us in concise outline a complete encyclopaedia on questions of philosophy, religion, politics, publicist literature, and appraisals of the whole liberation movement and the whole history of Russian democracy. By giving Vekhi the subtitle “A Collection of Articles on the Russian Intelligentsia” the authors under state the actual subject-matter of their publication, for, with them, the “intelligentsia” in fact appears as the spiritual leader, inspirer and mouthpiece of the whole Russian democracy   and the whole Russian liberation movement. Vekhi is a most significant landmark on the road of Russian Cadetism and Russian liberalism in general towards a complete break with the Russian liberation movement, with all its main aims and fundamental traditions.


This encyclopaedia of liberal renegacy embraces three main subjects: 1) the struggle against the ideological principles of the whole world outlook of Russian (and international) democracy; 2) repudiation and vilification of the liberation movement of recent years; 3) an open proclamation of its “flunkey” sentiments (and a corresponding “flunkey” policy) in relation to the Octobrist bourgeoisie,, the old regime and the entire old Russia in general.

The authors of Vekhi start from the philosophical bases of the “intellectualist” world outlook. The book is permeated through and through with bitter opposition to materialism, which is qualified as nothing but dogmatism, metaphysics, “the most elementary and lowest form of philosophising” (p. 4—references are to the first edition of Vekhi). Positivism is condemned because “for us” (i.e., the Russian “intelligentsia” that Vekhi annihilates) it was “identified with materialist metaphysics” or was interpreted “exclusively in the spirit of materialism” (15), while “no mystic,, no believer, can deny scientific positivism in science” (11). Don’t laugh! “Hostility to idealist and religious mystical tendencies” (6)—such is the charge with which Vekhi attacks the “intelligentsia”. “Yurkevich, at any rate, was a real philosopher in comparison with Chernyshevsky” (4).

Holding this point of view, Vekhi very naturally thunders incessantly against the atheism of the “intelligentsia” and strives with might and main to re-establish the religious world outlook in its entirety. Having demolished Chernyshevsky as a philosopher it is quite natural that Vekhi demolishes Belinsky as a publicist. Belinsky, Dobrolyubov and Chernyshevsky were the leaders of the “intellectuals” (134, 56, 32, 17 and elsewhere). Chaadayev, Vladimir Solovyov, Dostoyevsky were “not intellectuals at all”. The former were   the leaders of a trend against which Vekhi is fighting to the death. The latter"tirelessly maintained"the very same things that Vekhi stands for today, but “they were unheeded, the intelligentsia passed them by”, declares the preface to Vekhi.

The reader can already see from this that it is not the intelligentsia” that Vekhi is attacking. This is only an artificial and misleading manner of expression. The attack is being pursued all along the line against democracy, against the democratic world outlook. And since it is inconvenient for the ideological leaders of a party that advertises itself as “constitutional” and “democratic” to call things by their true names, they have borrowed their terminology from the Moskovskiye Vedomosti.{4} They are not renouncing democracy (what a scandalous libel!) but only “intellectualism”. Belinsky’s letter to Gogol, declares Vekhi, is a “lurid and classical expression of intellectualist sentiment” (56). “The history of our publicist literature, after Belinsky, in the sense of an understanding of life, is a sheer nightmare” (82).

Well, well. The serf peasants’ hostility to serfdom is obviously an “intellectualist” sentiment. The history of the protest and struggle of the broadest masses of the population from 1861 to 1905 against the survivals of feudalism through out the whole system of Russian life is evidently a “sheer nightmare”. Or, perhaps, in the opinion of our wise and educated authors, Belinsky’s Sentiments in the letter to Gogol did not depend on the feelings of the serf peasants? The history of our publicist literature did not depend on the indignation of the popular masses against the survivals of feudal oppression?

Moskovskiye Vedomosti has always tried to prove that Russian democracy, beginning with Belinsky at least, in no way expresses the interests of the broadest masses of the population in the struggle for the elementary rights of the people, violated by feudal institutions, but expresses only “intellectualist sentiments”.

Vekhi has the same programme as Moskovskiye Vedomosti both in philosophy and in publicist matters. In philosophy, however, the liberal renegades decided to tell the whole truth, to reveal all their programme (war on materialism and the materialist interpretation of positivism, restoration of mysticism and the mystical world outlook), whereas on   publicist subjects they prevaricate and hedge and Jesuitise. They have broken with the most fundamental ideas of democracy, the most elementary democratic tendencies, but pretend that they are breaking only with “intellectualism”. The liberal bourgeoisie has decisively turned away from defence of popular rights to defence of institutions hostile to the people. But the liberal politicians want to retain the title of “democrats”.

The same trick that was performed with Belinsky’s letter to Gogol and the history of Russian publicist literature is being applied to the history of the recent movement.


As a matter of fact Vekhi attacks only the intelligentsia that was a voice of the democratic movement and only for that which showed it to be a real participant in this movement. Vekhi furiously attacks the intelligentsia precisely because this “little underground sect came out into the broad light of day, gained a multitude of disciples and for a time became ideologically influential and even actually powerful” (176). The liberals sympathised with the “intelligentsia” and sometimes supported it secretly as long as it remained merely a little underground sect, until it gained a multitude of disciples and became actually powerful; that is to say, the liberals sympathised with democracy as long as it did not set in motion the real masses, for, as long as the masses were not drawn in, it only served the self-seeking aims of liberalism, it only helped the upper section of the liberal bourgeoisie to climb a little nearer to power. The liberal turned his back on democracy when it drew in the masses, who began to realise their own aims and uphold their own interests. Under the cover of outcries against the democratic “intelligentsia” the war of the Cadets is in fact being waged against the democratic movement of the masses. One of the innumerable and obvious revelations of this in Vekhi is its declaration that the great social movement of the end of the eighteenth century in France was “an example of a sufficiently prolonged intellectualist revolution, displaying all its spiritual potentialities” (57).

Good, is it not? The French movement of the end of the eighteenth century, please note, was not an example of the democratic movement of the masses in its profoundest and broadest form, but an example of “intellectualist” revolution! Since democratic aims have never anywhere in the world been achieved without a movement of a homogeneous type it is perfectly obvious that the ideological leaders of liberalism are breaking with democracy.

The feature of the Russian intelligentsia that Vekhi in veighs against is the necessary accompaniment and expression of any democratic movement. “The admixture of the political radicalism of intellectualist ideas to the social radicalism of popular instincts[1] was achieved with amazing rapidity” (141)—and this was “not simply a political mistake, not simply an error of tactics. The mistake here was a moral one.” Where there are no martyred popular masses, there can be no democratic movement. And what distinguishes a democratic movement from a mere “riot” is that it proceeds under the banner of certain radical political ideas. Democratic movements and democratic ideas are not only politically erroneous, are not only out of place tactically but are morally sinful—such in essence is the real opinion of Vekhi, which does not differ one iota from the real opinions of Pobedonostsev.{5} Pobedonostsev only said more honestly and candidly what Struve, Izgoyev, Frank and Co. are saying.

When Vekhi proceeds to define more precisely the sub stance of the hateful “intellectualist” ideas, it naturally speaks about “Left” ideas in general and Narodnik and Marxist ideas in particular. The Narodniks are accused of “spurious love for the peasantry” and the Marxists “for the proletariat” (9). Both are blasted to smithereens for “idolisation of the people” (59, 59–60). To the odious “intellectual” “god is the people, the sole aim is the happiness of the majority” (159). “The stormy oratory of the atheistic Left bloc” (29)—this is what impressed itself most on the memory of the Cadet Bulgakov in the Second Duma and particularly aroused his indignation. And there is not the slightest doubt that Bulgakov has expressed here, somewhat more conspicuously than   others, the general Cadet psychology, he has voiced the cherished thoughts of the whole Cadet Party.

That for a liberal the distinction between Narodism and Marxism is obliterated is not accidental, but inevitable. It is not the “trick” of the writer (who is perfectly aware of the distinction) but a logical expression of the present nature of liberalism. At the present time what the liberal bourgeoisie in Russia dreads and abominates is not so much the socialist movement of the working class in Russia as the democratic movement both of the workers and the peasants, i.e., it dreads and abominates what Narodism and Marxism have in common, their defence of democracy by appealing to the masses. It is characteristic of the present period that liberalism in Russia has decisively turned against democracy; quite naturally it is not concerned either with the distinctions within democracy or with the further aims, vistas and prospects which will be unfolded when democracy is achieved.

Vekhi simply teems with catchwords like “idolisation of the people”. This is not surprising, for the liberal bourgeoisie, which has become frightened of the people, has no alter native but to shout about the democrats’ “idolisation of the people”. The retreat cannot but be covered by an extra loud roll of the drums. In point of fact, it is impossible to deny outright that it was in the shape of the workers’ and peasants’ deputies that the first two Dumas expressed the real interests, demands and views of the mass of the workers and peasants. Yet it was just these “intellectualist”[2] deputies who infected the Cadets with their abysmal hatred of the “Lefts” because of the exposure of the Cadets’ everlasting retreats from democracy. In point of fact, it is impossible to deny outright the justice of the “four-point electoral system” demand{6}; yet no political leader who is at all honest has the slightest doubt that in contemporary Russia elections on the “four-point” system, really democratic elections,   would give an overwhelming majority to the Trudovik deputies together with the deputies of the workers’ party.

Nothing remains for the back-sliding liberal bourgeoisie but to conceal its break with democracy by means of catch words from the vocabulary of Moskovskiye Vedomosti and Novoye Vremya{7} the whole symposium Vekhi positively teems with them.

Vekhi is a veritable torrent of reactionary mud poured on the head of democracy. Of course the publicists of Novoye Vremya—Rozanov Menshikov and A. Stolypin—have hastened to salute Vekhi with their kisses. Of course, Anthony, Bishop of Volhynia,{8} is enraptured with this publication of the leaders of liberalism.

“When the intellectual,” says Vekhi, “reflected upon his duty to the people, he never arrived at the thought that the idea of personal responsibility expressed in the principle of duty must be applied not only to him, the intellectual, but to the people as well” (139). The democrat reflected on the ex tension of the rights and liberty of the people, clothing this thought in words about the “duty” of the upper classes to the people. The democrat could never and will never arrive at the thought that in a country prior to reform or in a country with a June 3 constitution there could be any question of “responsibility” of the people to the ruling classes. To arrive at this thought the democrat, or so-called democrat, must be completely converted into a counter-revolutionary liberal.

“Egoism, self-assertion is a great power,” we read in Vekhi, “this is what makes the Western bourgeoisie a mighty unconscious instrument of God’s will on earth” (95). This is nothing more than a paraphrase flavoured with incense of the celebrated “Enrichissez vous!—enrich yourselves!”—or of our Russian motto: “We put our stake on the strong!”{9} When the bourgeoisie were helping the people to fight for freedom they declared this struggle to be a divine cause. When they became frightened of the people and turned to supporting all kinds of medievalism against the people, they declared as a divine cause “egoism”, self-enrichment, a chauvinistic foreign policy, etc. Such was the case all over Europe. It is being repeated in Russia.

“The revolution should virtually and formally have culminated with the edict of October 17” (136). This is the alpha   and omega of Octobrism, i.e., of the programme of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. The Octobrists have always said this and acted openly in accordance with it. The Cadets acted surreptitiously in the same way (beginning from October 17), but at the same time wanted to keep up the pretence of being democrats. If the cause of democracy is to be successful, a complete, clear and open demarcation between the democrats and the renegades is the most effective and necessary thing. Vekhi must be utilised for this necessary act. “We must have the courage to confess at last,” writes the renegade Izgoyev, “that in our State Dumas the vast majority of the deputies, with the exception of three or four dozen Cadets and Octobrists, have not displayed knowledge required for the government and reformation of Russia” (208). Well, of course, how could clod-hopping Trudovik deputies or some sort of working men undertake such a task? It needs a majority of Cadets and Octobrists and that needs a Third Duma....

And so that the people and their idolators should realise their “responsibility” to the bosses in the Third Duma and Third Duma Russia the people must be taught—with the assistance of Anthony, Bishop of Volhynia —“repentance” (Vekhi, 26), “humility” (49), opposition to “the pride of the intellectual” (52), “obedience” (55), “the plain, coarse food of old Moses’ Ten Commandments” (51), struggle against “the legion of devils who have entered the gigantic body of Russia” (68). If the peasants elect Trudoviks and the workers elect Social-Democrats, this of course is just such devils? work, for by their true nature the people, as Katkov and Pobedonostsev discovered long ago, entertain “hatred for the intelligentsia” (87; read: for democracy).

Therefore, Vekhi teaches us, Russian citizens must “bless this government which alone with its bayonets and prisons still protects us [“the intellectuals”] from popular fury” (88).

This tirade is good because it is frank; it is useful because it reveals the truth about the real essence of the policy of the whole Constitutional-Democratic Party throughout the period 1905-09, This tirade is good because it reveals concisely and vividly the whole spirit of Vekhi. And Vekhi is good because it discloses the whole spirit of the real policy of the Russian liberals and of the Russian Cadets included among them. That is why the Cadet polemic with Vekhi   and the Cadet renunciation of Vekhi are nothing but hypocrisy, sheer idle talk, for in reality the Cadets collectively, as a party, as a social force, have pursued and are pursuing the policy of Vekhi and no other. The calls to take part in the elections to the Bulygin Duma in August and September 1905, the betrayal of the cause of democracy at the end of the same year, their persistent fear of the people and the popular movement and systematic opposition to the deputies of the workers and peasants in the first two Dumas, the voting for the budget, the speeches of Karaulov on religion and Berezovsky on the agrarian question in the Third Duma, the visit to London—these are only a few of the innumerable landmarks of just that policy which has been ideologically proclaimed in Vekhi.

Russian democracy cannot make a single step forward until it understands the essence of this policy and the class roots of it.


[1] “Of the martyred popular masses” is the phrase used on the same page, two lines down. —Lenin

[2] Vekhi’s distortion of the ordinary meaning of the word “intellectual” is really laughable. We have only to look through the list of deputies in the first two Dumas to see at once the overwhelming majority of peasants among the Trudoviks, the predominance of workers among the Social-Democrats and the concentration of the mass of the bourgeois intelligentsia among the Cadets. —Lenin

{3} Prior to the appearance of this article, Lenin delivered a public lecture in Liège on October 16 (29), 1909, “The Ideology of the Counter-revolutionary Bourgeoisie”. On November 13 (26), 1909, Lenin delivered a lecture on the same subject in Paris: “The Ideology of the Counter-revolutionary Liberalism (The Success of Vekhi and Its Social Significance)”. The plan of the Paris lecture is set out in a poster preserved in the archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. It is divided into the following parts: “I. The philosophy against which Vekhi fights and the Duma speeches of the Cadet Karaulov, II. Belinsky and Chernyshevsky annihilated by Vekhi. III. Why do the liberals hate the ‘intellectualist’ Russian revolution and its French ‘sufficiently prolonged’ model? IV. Vekhi and the Lefts in Russia. Cadets and Octobrists. The ‘sacred cause’ of the Russian bourgeoisie. V. What did the democratic revolution in Russia gain by losing its liberal-bourgeois ‘allies’? VI. Vekhi and Milyukov’s speeches at the election meetings in St. Petersburg. How Milyukov criticised the illegal revolutionary newspaper at these meetings.”

{4} Moskovskiye Vedomosti (Moscow Recorder)—a daily newspaper founded in 1756; beginning with the 1860s, it expressed the views of the most reactionary monarchist elements among the landlords and clergy; from 1905 onwards, it was one of the chief organs of the Black Hundreds. It was closed down soon after the October Revolution of 1917.

{5} Pobedonostsev, E. P.—a reactionary Statesman of tsarist Russia, Procurator-General of the Synod. He was virtually head of the government and chief inspirer of unbridled feudalistic reaction during the rule of Alexander III and he continued to play a prominent part under Nicholas XI as well.

{6} The “four-point electoral system”—designation of the democratic electoral system, which includes four demands: universal, equal, direct suffrage and secret ballot.

{7} Novoye Vremya (New Times)—a daily newspaper published in St. Petersburg from 1868 to October 1917. Moderately liberal at the outset, it became after 1876 the organ of reactionary circles of the nobility and the bureaucracy. The paper was hostile not only to the revolutionary, but even to the liberal-bourgeois movement. After 1905 it became an organ of the Black Hundreds. Lenin called Novoye Vremya the acme of venality in the press.

{8} Anthony, Bishop of Volhynia—an extreme reactionary. p. 129

{9} The words “Enrich yourselves, gentlemen, and you will become electors” are ascribed to Guizot, head of the French Government during the years of the July monarchy (1830-48).

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