V. I.   Lenin

The Cadets and the Octobrists

Published: Zvezda, No. 16, April 2, 1911. Signed: V.Ilyin. Published according to the Zvezda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1974], Moscow, Volume 17, pages 134-138.
Translated: Dora Cox
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 notorious “Cabinet crisis” and the election of a new Chairman of the State Duma[1] have provided additional material on the social nature and political significance of the Cadet and the Octobrist parties. For the hundredth or the thousandth time the Russian liberal (save the mark!) bourgeoisie has shown its true colours. From the daily press and from the preceding issue of Zvezda, the reader knows what these colours are. It may not be superfluous, however, to sum up some of the conclusions, in view of the fact that the Cadet press, which is the most widely circulated, willingly “thunders” against the Octobrists, but is very loath to deal with the results of the Cadets’ own actions.

Let us recall the behaviour of the party of “people’s freedom” during the elections of the new Chairman of the State Duma. On March 21, Rech hastened to report: “The people’s freedom group has decided to vote for M. Alexeyenko if he is nominated for the post of Chairman of the State Duma. If, however, Rodzyanko is nominated, the group will vote against him”. The Constitutional-“Democrats” offer their services to the “Left” Octobrists. But that is not all. The leading article in Rech of the same date declares that Alexeyenko is “universally respected”, and tries to deal with the matter from the standpoint of the entire State Duma: if, it says, the Rights support the nominee of the majority of the Octobrists (i. e., Alexeyenko’s candidacy), then the State Duma may, perhaps, “regain the unanimity” with which the nomination of Khomyakov was once accepted. “This unanimity would show that the entire Duma realises the exceptional gravity of the situation.”

Thus wrote Rech. “The entire Duma”, nothing more nor less. This should be recalled as often as possible during the elections to the Fourth Duma!

The Cadets are perfectly well aware that the Rights, on principle, are for a Duma without rights; that the Nationalists justify and defend Stolypin and the violation of Article 87. And yet, merely for the sake of voting for Alexeyenko, the Cadets are prepared to forget everything and to pro claim the unanimity of “the entire Duma”, although they too are fully aware that the workers’ deputies will under no circumstances allow themselves to be duped by the “unanimity” of the Third Duma, any more than they did at the time of Khomyakov’s election.

It is obvious that, as far as the Cadets are concerned, the workers’ deputies and the Trudoviks do not count. The Third Duma without them, but with the Rights, with Markov the Second and Purishkevich, is “the entire Duma”. That is what the statement of Rech amounts to. And this reasoning of Rech correctly draws the line which many have so often interpreted wrongly—namely, the line between the feudal landowners and the bourgeoisie (even the most “liberal”, i. e., the Cadet variety), on the one hand, and the workers and the peasants, i. e., the forces of democracy, on the other. Without the forces of democracy, but with the Rights, “we”, say the Cadets, are “the entire Duma”. That means that when they lay claim to the title of democrats the, Cadets are deceiving the people. That means that, as far as the Cadets are concerned, “we” implies the feudal landowners and the bourgeoisie; the rest do not count.

The minor question of the election of a new Chairman of the State Duma has served to remind us once again of the essential truth that the Cadets are not democrats, but moderate liberal bourgeois, who long for “the unanimity” of “the entire” parliament of diehard reactionaries and Octobrists. Competition with the Octobrists—is all that the “struggle” the Cadets are waging against them amounts to. The Cadets are fighting the Octobrists—there is no doubt of that. But they are not fighting them as representatives of a class, as representatives of larger sections of the population, and the aim of their fight is not to remove the old regime to which the Octobrists are adapting themselves; they are fighting them as competitors who are anxious to adapt them selves to the same regime, to serve the interests of the same class, and to protect it from the too exacting demands   of the wider sections of the population (the democratic elements in general and of the proletariat in particular). All that the Cadets are after is to adapt themselves to the same regime, but in a slightly different way; that is the sub stance of their policy, the policy of the liberal bourgeois. And it is this competition with the Octobrists, the struggle to step into their shoes, that lends the fight of the Cadets its peculiar “pungency”. This explains the special hostility of the Rights and the Octobrists towards the Cadets; it is a hostility of a special kind: “those fellows” (the democrats) are out to annihilate them, while “these fellows” (the Cadets) want to force them down one rung of the ladder; the first prospect calls for an irreconcilable struggle as a matter of principle, it calls for a life and death struggle; the second prospect implies a fight for the top jobs, a contest in the sphere of intrigue, rivalry as regards the methods of winning the very same landowning and bourgeois majority, or of earning the confidence of the very same old regime.

The picture which the Third Duma presented on the day of the election of the new Chairman clearly showed this difference.

The Cadet recorder of events “in parliamentary circles” continued to sing the praises of Alexeyenko in Rech of March 23, describing him as “a man quite independent and with a strong sense of dignity”, and so on and so forth. This is said of an Octobrist who delighted in the coup of June 3!

Such is the Cadet gauge for strict legality: not to protest against June 3, but to protest against March 14. It reminds one of the American saying: “If you steal a loaf of bread you’ll surely go to jail, but if you steal a railroad you’ll be made a senator”.

Mr. Litovtsev, who is responsible for the “In Parliamentary Circles” column in Rech, on March 23 wrote that the Left Octobrists and the Cadets “spent a good half of the day worrying: what if he decides to accept” (meaning Rodzyanko who pretended that he was declining nomination).

How could the struggle between the Cadets and their opponents help being sharp when the matter revolves around a question so close to and so directly affecting the entire   Third Duma, namely, “What if Rodzyanko decides to accept?”!

Rodzyanko did decide to accept. What happened at the elections was that the Rights and the Nationalists roared with laughter and applauded for all they were worth; while the “Left” Octobrists and the Cadets maintained a stubborn, systematic silence: they were beaten at their own game; they could not rejoice; they were forced to maintain silence. “By way of protest”, the Cadets cast their vote for the Nationalist Volkonsky. The democrats alone declared loudly, unequivocally, and clearly that they would take no part in the election of the new Chairman of the Third Duma, and that they declined any responsibility for “the entire activity of the Third Duma” (Voiloshnikov’s words).

On the day of the elections, at the 86th sitting of the Duma, the only ones who spoke in the contest between the competitors were Rodzyanko, the head of the Third Duma, Bulat, and Voiloshnikov. The rest were silent.

Voiloshnikov, speaking on behalf of all the members of his group, correctly pointed out that the Cadets, “due to the peculiar nature of their political position, have always placed all their hopes in alliances inside the Duma”, and he ridiculed them as gullible liberals.

The Cadets’ political position and its peculiar nature are to be explained by the class character of this party. It is an anti-democratic bourgeois-liberal party. That is why they “always place all their hopes in alliances inside the Duma”. This is true in two senses: first, in the sense of contrasting what is going on inside the Duma with what is going on outside it; and, secondly, in the sense that it refers to “alliances” among those social elements, those classes, which represent the “entire” Third Duma.

In connection with the election of Rodzyanko, which signified a victory for the Nationalists, only the workers’ deputies and the Trudoviks came out with statements which were not meant to promote any alliances “inside the Duma”; with statements which explained the attitude of the forces of democracy in general and of the proletarian forces of democracy in particular, toward the entire Third Duma, toward the coup of June 3, and toward the Octobrists and the Cadets jointly. These statements represented a proper   notice served on Rodzyanko and the whole of “his” majority, a proper warning to the “responsible” liberal “opposition” (responsible to the Third Duma and to the men of June 3) by political parties “responsible” to certain other forces.


[1] In March 1911 the Council of State turned down the Bill on the establishment of Zemstvos in the Western Gubernias, which had been introduced by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, P. A. Stolypin.

As a result of this attitude, Stolypin handed in his resignation which Nicholas II refused to accept. Stolypin then succeeded in having the State Duma and the Council of State prorogued for three days (from March 12 to 14 [25 to 27]) and passed the law on Zemstvos in the Western Gubernias by invoking Article 87 which empowered the government to adopt laws by-passing the legislative organs when they were not functioning “if extraordinary circumstances make such action essential”.

This invoking of Article 87 to by-pass the legislative organs lead to the demonstrative resignation of A. I. Guchkov, Chairman of the State Duma, and the election of a new Chairman, the Right Octobrist M. V. Rodzyanko.

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