V. I.   Lenin

The Cadets on “Two Camps” and “Sensible Compromise”

Published: Zvezda, No. 8, February 5, 1911. Signed: V. Ilyin. Published according to the Zvezda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1974], Moscow, Volume 17, pages 82-86.
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.
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The answer given by Rech to the semi-official organ of the Cabinet on the question of the “slogan” for the elections to the Fourth Duma and on the present-day political alignment represents an interesting and significant phenomenon.

Rech agrees with Russkiye Vedomosti[1] that “the elections to the Fourth Duma will be a contest between two camps only: the Progressists and the Rights”. “Votes will have to be cast not for parties, nor for individual candidates, but for or against the consolidation of the constitutional system in Russia. [“Consolidation” is a very charming way of putting it!] The political meaning of this slogan ... is an objective acknowledgement of the indisputable fact that the line pursued by the government has again united the entire opposition, both to the right and to the left of the Cadets.” The Cadets will constitute “the centre of this politically heterogeneous group”, and, although they form part of it, “will renounce their former programme and tactics just as little as did the Social-Democrats when they joined the pre-October alliances” (the editorial, January 21).

Gentlemen, we can say in reply to the semi-official and official press, it is you yourselves who have been instrumental in uniting us.... At present political trends in Russia are merging to an ever greater extent in two big camps—for and against the Constitution.... Our task at present is the same, again the same, just as it was before October 17...” (ibid.).

In assessing these observations we must distinguish between the conditions attending the elections to the Fourth Duma and the social and political meaning of the changes under discussion (the “slogan” and the alignments). The   circumstances of the elections in general, in the provinces in particular, will certainly compel the “opposition” to resort to the vague non-party term “Progressists”[2] on an even wider scale than before. The refusal to legalise even such parties as the Cadets will inevitably lead to this, and the bewilderment of the semi-official organ of the Cabinet on this score is, of course, nothing but sheer hypocrisy. In the big cities, for instance, as the Cadets themselves admit in that very same editorial, independent candidates of “groups more to the left” (to use the expression of Russkiye Vedomosti) will stand for election. This alone shows that there can be no question of just two camps.

Further, Rech thought it best completely to forget the existence of a worker curia, as provided by the present election laws. Finally, with regard to the elections in the villages (the peasant curia) it must be said that here even the word “Progressists” will undoubtedly be avoided; but it will probably not be the Cadets who will constitute the actual “centre” of the “politically heterogeneous” or politically undefinable groups.

What, then, does the talk about two camps amount to? To the fact that it pleases the Cadets, in speaking of the present political situation, to narrow down their field of vision to include only those elements that constitute the majority in the Third Duma. The Cadet gentlemen are willing to recognise as political “camps” only that insignificant section of the population represented by these elements. Hitherto the main division in this small corner created by the coup d’état of June 3 has been: the Rights, the Octobrists, the Cadets. (It is well known that the character of the Third Duma was determined, in the final analysis, by two majorities: the Rights with the Octobrists and the Octobrists with the Cadets.) Now (according to the forecast of Russkiye Vedomosti, with which Rech is in agreement) these three elements will be divided into two “camps”: the Rights and Progressists.

We fully admit that these predictions of the liberals are based not on the wishes of the liberals alone, but on objective facts as well—on the changes in the political situation and in the political sentiments of the Russian bourgeoisie. It would be impermissible, however, to forget that   one can speak of two camps only when the field of observation is limited to the majority in the Third Duma. It would be impermissible to forget that the actual meaning of all this talk is nothing more than the tendency on the part of the Octobrist and the Cadet “camps” to draw closer together, merge and unite in the Progressist “camp” (with the tacit understanding, of course, that a more or less consider able section of the Octobrist camp will defect to the camp of the Rights). When the Cadets say: “we” have been united, again “we” have one task, etc., these words “we”, “us”, “our” actually mean nothing more than the Octobrists and the Cadets.

Now, what has united “them”? What is “their” task? What is “their” slogan for the elections to the Fourth Duma? “The consolidation of the Constitution”, reply Russkiye Vedomosti and Rech. This reply is only seemingly definite; actually, it defines absolutely nothing; it amounts to the same, absolutely meaningless, reference to some indefinite “mean” between the Octobrists and the Cadets. For both Milyukov and Guchkov agree that “Thank God, we have a Constitution”, but when they dream of making common cause, it is for the purpose of “consolidating”, not what “we” have, but what we have not. It is also a dream, and not a very sensible one at that, that Milyukov and Guchkov, the Cadets and the Octobrists of today, and the “Progressists” of tomorrow, could agree on a definition of what should be included in the desired Constitution. They would be unable to agree either on the legal formulations expressing the Constitution, or on defining what real interests of what actual classes this Constitution should meet and safeguard. Hence, the real meaning of this joint slogan amounts to this: while they are being drawn more closely together by “a negative aim—that of the struggle against the common enemy” (as Rech puts it in the same editorial), the Octobrists and the Cadets cannot define their positive tasks, cannot find in their camps the forces that would be capable of emerging from the deadlock.

The observations of Rech on the subject of a “sensible compromise” in connection with another matter ore a very clearly expressed admission that they are indeed in a state of deadlock, that it is necessary to emerge from this state,   that this is necessary for both the Octobrists and the Cadets, and that, after they have emerged, both will be absolutely impotent by themselves.

During the debate in the Duma on the St. Petersburg sewerage system,” we read in an editorial in Rech of January 20, “the unhealthy undercurrent of the controversy was somewhat lessened, and even the Centre [i.e., the Octobrists] found it possible to accept the sensible compromise which the people’s freedom group proposed and the municipality accepted; but the interference of P. A. Stolypin rudely tore away the veil [you, Messrs. Cadets, would like vexed questions to remain hidden under a veil, wouldn’t you?] and revealed the same old background, with which everyone has been disgusted for some time—that of the political struggle of the state against the municipality.”

The liberal bourgeoisie in the guise of an innocent—oh, how innocent!—person dreaming of “sensible compromises” on a businesslike, non-political basis, and the representatives of the old, “non-constitutional”, principles in the role of political educators who tear down the veils and reveal the class background! A sensible compromise, the liberal muses, means that what the Cadets, the Octobrists and the non-party bigwigs of capital (the St. Petersburg municipality) have agreed upon may be conceded. There is nothing sensible in the idea of our yielding to you, the government replies; the only sensible thing is that you yield to us.

The minor question of the sanitation of St. Petersburg, of the distribution of the responsibilities and rights between local self-government and autocratic government, became the occasion for the elucidation of truths of no mean importance. What, indeed, is more “sensible”—the wishes, dreams and demands of the whole bourgeoisie, or the power of, say, the Council of the United Nobility[3]?

In the eyes of Rech, as well as of the whole Cadet Party, the criterion of the “wisdom” of a compromise is in its approval by men of affairs, businessmen, bigwigs, the Octobrists themselves, the wire-pullers of the St. Petersburg municipality themselves. But the actual state of affairs—no matter how it is furbished up with phrases like “Thank God, we have a Constitution”—unmasks these compromises and tears away these veils rather rudely.

To sum up: “You have been instrumental in uniting us”, Rech says to the semi-official organ of the Cabinet. Who do they mean by “us”? It appears that they mean the Octobrists and the Cadets. What have they united for? For a common task, the consolidation of the Constitution. And what are we to understand by the Constitution and its consolidation? A sensible compromise between the Octobrists and the Cadets. What is the criterion of the wisdom of compromises of this kind? Their approval by the worst representatives of Russian “Kolupayev” capitalism,[4] such as the St. Petersburg municipal councillors. And what is the practical result of these sensible compromises? The result is that P. A. Stolypin, or the Council of State, or Tolmachov,[5] etc., “rudely unmask” these compromises.... Oh, these practical politicians!

But will there not be a third camp at the elections to the Fourth Duma—one that realises how senseless, ridiculous and naïve is the Cadet policy of “sensible compromise”? What do you think of that, gentlemen of Rech and Russkiye Vedomosti?


[1] Russkiye Vedomosti (Russian Recorder)—a daily newspaper published in Moscow from 1863 by liberal professors of the Moscow University and Zemstvo personalities; it expressed the views of the liberal landlords and bourgeoisie. From 1905 it was an organ of the Right Cadets, and was closed down after the 1917 October Revolution.

[2] Progressists—chiefly representatives of the urban petty bourgeoisie, and to some extent of the peasantry, who stood for election to the Second and Third Dumas.

[3] Council of the United Nobility—a counter-revolutionary landlord organisation formed in May 1906, which exercised great influence on government policy. During the period of the Third State Duma a considerable number of its members were in the Council of State and leading centres of the Black-Hundred organisations.

[4]Kolupayevcapitalism. Kolupayev is the name of a kulak in M. Y. Saltykov-Shchedrin’s The Mon Repos Retreat. Lenin described this type of capitalism in “The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905–07”

[5] Tolmachov, I. N.—Governor of Odessa, an extreme reactionary.

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