V. I. Lenin

The Demonstration on the Death of Muromtsev

A Comment

Published: Sotsial-Demokrat No. 18, November 18 (29), 1910. Signed: N. Lenin. Published according to the text in Sotsial-Demokrat.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1974], Moscow, Volume 16, pages 314-319.
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.  

“This Duma,” writes the Cadet newspaper Rech about the first sitting of the fourth session of the Black-Hundred Duma, “has today divorced itself finally and irrevocably from popular feeling and the national conscience.” This is said, of course, with reference to the refusal of the Black-Hundred and Octobrist deputies to honour the memory of Muromtsev, who presided over the First Duma.

It would be difficult to express more conspicuously than in the phrase quoted above the utter falsity of that point of view which our liberals take towards the struggle for freedom in general and the demonstration on the death of Muromtsev in particular.

There is no doubt that a demonstration against the tsarist government, against the autocracy, against the Black-Hundred Duma was called for on the occasion of Muromtsev’s death, that a demonstration did take place, that the most diverse and broadest sections of the population took part in it, the most diverse parties extending from the Social-Democrats to the Cadets, “progressists” and Polish Octobrists (the Polish Kolo).{1} Nor is there any doubt that the Cadets’ appraisal of this demonstration shows for the hundredth and thousandth time how alien they are to democracy, how ruinous to the cause of democracy in Russia it is for our Cadets to have the conduct of this cause or even to play a leading part in it.

All democrats and all liberals took part and had necessarily to take part in the demonstration on the death of Muromtsev, for in the darkness of the regime of the Black-Hundred   Duma such a demonstration afforded an opportunity to express openly and on a comparatively broad scale a protest against the autocracy. The tsarist autocracy waged a desperate struggle against the introduction of representative institutions in Russia. The autocracy gerrymandered and distorted the convocation of the first parliament in Russia, when the proletariat and revolutionary peasantry compelled it by mass struggle to convoke this assembly. The autocracy cynically flouted and rode roughshod over democracy and the people, insofar as the voice of the people, the voice of democracy, resounded in the First Duma. Now the autocracy is persecuting even the recollection of this feeble expression of the demands of democracy in the First Duma (the expression of these demands was much feebler, poorer, narrower, less lively during the First Duma and from the rostrum of the First Duma than in the autumn of 1905 from the rostrums, which were created by the wave of open mass struggle).

That is why democracy and liberalism could and had to come together in a demonstration of protest against the autocracy on any occasion that put the masses in mind of the revolution. But, coming together in a common demonstration, they could not but express their attitude both to the appraisal of the aims of democracy in general and to the his tory of the First Duma in particular. And the first approach to such an appraisal brought out the insufferable threadbareness, political impotence and political ineptitude of our bourgeois liberalism.

Just think: the Black-Hundred Duma has “today”, October 15, 1910, “divorced itself finally and irrevocably” from the people! That is to say, hitherto it was not divorced from them irrevocably. That is to say, participation in honouring the memory of Muromtsev would have remedied, could have remedied the “divorcement” from “popular feeling”, i.e., the divorcement of various of our counter-revolutionaries from democracy. Understand, gentlemen, you who lay claim to the lofty title of democrats, that you yourselves, more than anyone else, are detracting from the significance of the demonstration, making it cheap, when you put the question in such a light. “Even putting the lowest moral and political value on the Third Duma,” says Rech, “it seemed   absurd to think that it would be capable of declining this elementary duty of honouring from the tribune the name of the man who so worthily and brilliantly inaugurated it [!!] and sanctified it.” A fine tribute, indeed! Muromtsev inaugurated and sanctified “it”, the Third Duma! Inadvertently the Cadets have blurted out the bitter truth that the betrayal of the revolutionary struggle and of the insurrection at the end of 1905 by Russian liberalism and the Russian bourgeoisie “inaugurated and sanctified” the era of counter revolution in general and the Third Duma in particular. “It was believed,” says Rech, “that a handful of political rowdies would not be able to stifle the voice of common decency and tact in the Duma majority.” So! It was a matter-of “common decency and tact”, not of protesting against the autocracy. The question is put in the aspect not of democracy “divorcing itself” from the counter-revolution hut of liberalism joining forces with the counter-revolution. Here liberalism is seeking common ground with the counter revolution, inviting its representatives, the Octobrists, to join them in honouring the memory of Muromtsev not as an expression of protest against the autocracy, but for the observance of “common decency and tact”. Muromtsev “inaugurated and sanctified” (such vile words do exist!) the first pseudo-parliament convened by the tsar; you Octobrist gentlemen have seats in the third pseudo-parliament convened by the tsar—will it not be “indecent and tactless” to refuse to fulfil “an elementary duty”? How excellently this quite trivial instance, this one sentiment alone expressed by the Cadets’ official organ, reflects the ideological and political rottenness of liberalism in our country. Its policy is to persuade the autocracy, the Black-Hundred land lords and their allies, the Octobrists, and not to develop the democratic consciousness of the masses. Therefore, its portion—the inevitable and unescapable portion of such bourgeois liberalism in any bourgeois-democratic revolution—is to remain for ever the slave of the monarchy and the feudal lords, for ever to be the recipient of kicks from their jackboots.

If the Cadet deputies had a particle of understanding of the aims of democracy their concern in the Third Duma would have been not for the performance of an “elementary   duty” by the Octobrists but for a demonstration before the people. What was required for this was not the presentation of a statement to the Chairman (the reading of such a statement, according to Clause 120 of the standing orders, is at the discretion of the Chairman), but to have had the question brought up for discussion in one way or another.

If the Cadet writers had even a particle of understanding of the aims of democracy they would not have reproached the Octobrists with lack of tact but would have explained that it is the behaviour of the Third Duma that underlines the significance of the demonstration on the death of Muromtsev, and raises the question from conventional philistine chatter about “decency and tact” to the higher plane of a political appraisal of the present regime and the role of the different parties.

But the demonstration on the death of Muromtsev could not fail to raise another question, namely, the question the historical significance of the First Duma. Needless to say, the Cadets, who had the majority in it and at that time entertained high hopes of a Cadet Cabinet, of a “peaceful” transition to freedom, and the consolidation of their hegemony in the democratic camp, are praising Muromtsev to the skies as a “national hero”. The Trudoviks, in the person of Mr. Zhilkin, sank so low that they added their voices to this liberal chorus and openly honoured Muromtsev as the political “educator” of the Left parties.

Such an appraisal of the First Duma coming from the Cadets and the Trudoviks is important as an indication of the extremely low political level of Russian “society”. A “society” that is enraptured by the political role of the Cadets in the First Duma has no right to complain of Stolypin or the Third Duma: it has the very government that it deserves. The hegemony of liberalism in the Russian movement for emancipation inevitably implies the weakness of this movement and the impregnability of the dominance of the die-hard landlords. Only the brushing aside of the liberals by the proletariat and the hegemony of the latter have afforded victories for the revolution and can give more of them in the future.

The period of the First Duma was a time when the proletariat was mustering forces for a new offensive after its defeat   in December. Revolutionary strike action, which had weakened after December, again raised its head mightily; the peasants fell into line behind the workers (in the spring of 1906 peasant unrest spread over 46 per cent of the uyezds of European Russia); soldiers’ “mutinies” increased. The bourgeois liberals were faced with a dilemma: to assist the new revolutionary offensive of the masses, and then victory over tsarism would have been possible—or to turn away from the revolution and thereby facilitate the victory of tsarism. A new upsurge of mass struggle, new vacillations of the bourgeoisie, tsarism irresolute and playing a waiting game—such was the essence of the First Duma period, such was the class basis of this phase in Russian history.

The Cadets as the dominating party in the First Duma and Muromtsev, as one of the leaders of this party, betrayed an utter incomprehension of the political situation and committed a new betrayal of democracy. They turned aside from the revolution, condemned mass struggle, put every possible obstacle in its path and tried to take advantage of the irresolution of the tsarist government, holding up the bogey of revolution and demanding a deal (=a Cadet Cabinet) in the name of the revolution. It is clear that such tactics were a betrayal as regards democracy, and as regards tsarism they were impotent, pseudo-“constitutional” braggadocio. It is clear that tsarism was only playing for time to concentrate its forces, “playing” at negotiations with the Cadets while preparing to dissolve the Duma and stage a coup d’état. The proletariat and a section of the peasantry launched a new struggle in the spring of 1906—their fault or their misfortune was that they did not fight resolutely enough or in sufficient numbers. In the spring of 1906 the liberals were absorbed in playing at constitution-making and negotiating with Trepov, decrying those, and obstructing the cause of those, who alone could have smashed the Trepovs.

The bourgeois pharisees are fond of the proverb: “de mortuis aut bene aut nihil” (say nothing but good of the dead). The proletariat needs the truth about political leaders, whether living or dead, for those who really deserve to be called political leaders do not become dead as regards politics upon their physical demise. To repeat a conventional lie   about Muromtsev is to harm the cause of the proletariat and the cause of democracy and to corrupt the minds, of the masses. To speak the bitter truth about the Cadets and those who allowed themselves to be led (and taken in) by the Cadets is to honour all that is great in the first Russian revolution and to promote the success of the second.


{1} The Polish Kolo—a group of Polish deputies in the Duma, united by the demand for Polish autonomy. In the First and Second Dumas, the leading part in this group was played by the Narodovtsi—Polish Black Hundreds. On a the main questions of Duma tactics the Polish Kolo supported the Octobrists and the Rights.

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