V. I.   Lenin


Menshikov, Gromoboi, Izgoyev[2]

Published: Zvezda, No. 11, February 26, 1911. Signed: V. Ilyin. Published according to the Zvezda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1974], Moscow, Volume 17, pages 96-105.
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 statement[3] made by sixty-six Moscow industrialists—who, according to the calculations of a certain Moscow newspaper, represent capital amounting to five hundred million rubles—has given rise to a number of extremely valuable and characteristic articles in various newspapers. In addition to casting an uncommonly glaring light on the present political situation, these articles furnish interesting material on many fundamental questions of principle relating to the entire evolution in twentieth-century Russia.

Here is Mr. Menshikov of Novoye Vremya, setting forth the views of the Right parties and of the government:

How is it that all these Ryabushinskys, Morozovs, et al., fail to understand that should there be a revolution they will all hang or, at best, become paupers?”

Mr. Menshikov says (Novoye Vremya, No. 12549) that he quotes “these vigorous words” “from the letter of a student of a very revolutionary institute”. And to this Mr. Menshikov adds his own observations:

Despite the grim warning of the year 1905, the upper classes of Russia, including the merchant class, are extremely hazy about the impending catastrophe.... Yes, Messrs. Ryabushinsky, Morozov, and all others like you! Despite the fact that you are flirting with the revolution, and despite all the testimonials of liberalism which you are hastening to earn, it is you who are going to be the first victims of the revolution now brewing. You will be the first to hang, not for any crimes you may have committed, but for something which you consider a virtue, merely for possessing those five hundred million rubles you brag so much about.... The liberal bourgeoisie, with the middle sections   of the nobility, the civil service, and the merchant class together with their titles, ranks and capital are heedlessly heading towards the brink of the revolutionary precipice. If the liberal instigators of revolution live to see the day at last when they are dragged to the gallows, let them then recall their indulgent treatment by the old state power, how considerately it listened to them, how it humoured them, and how few were the claims it made upon their empty heads. On that very day, which will be a black day for them, let them compare the blessings of the radical regime with the old, patriarchal order.”

That is what the unofficially semi-official organ of the government wrote on February 17—the very same day that Rossiya, the officially semi-official organ of the government, was doing its utmost to prove, with the assistance of Golos Moskvy,[4] that the “escapade” of the sixty-six “cannot be considered as expressing the opinion of the Moscow merchants”. “The Congress of the Nobility,” Rossiya says, “is an organisation; whereas the sixty-six merchants who say that they acted as private individuals are not an organisation.”

It is embarrassing to have two semi-official organs! One refutes the other. One is trying to prove that the “escapade” of the sixty-six cannot be regarded as the expression of the opinion even of the Moscow merchants alone. At the same time the other is trying to prove that the “escapade” is of much wider significance, since it expresses the opinion, not only of the Moscow merchants, and of the merchant class, but of the whole of Russia’s liberal bourgeoisie in general. On behalf of “the old state power”, Mr. Menshikov has undertaken to caution this liberal bourgeoisie: it’s your interests we have at heart!

There is probably not a single country in Europe in which this call “not to instigate” addressed to the liberal bourgeoisie by the “old state power”, the nobility and the reactionary publicists, did not resound hundreds of times in the course of the nineteenth century.... And never were these calls of any avail, even though the “liberal bourgeoisie”, far from wanting to “instigate”, fought against the “instigators” with the same energy and sincerity with which the sixty-six merchants condemn strikes. Both condemnations and calls are powerless when all the conditions of social life   make one class or another feel that the situation is intolerable, and compel it to voice its feeling. Mr. Menshikov correctly expresses the interests and the point of view of the government and the nobility when he tries to frighten the liberal bourgeoisie with revolution and accuses it of being frivolous. The sixty-six merchants correctly express the interests and the point of view of the liberal bourgeoisie when they accuse the government and condemn the “strikers”. But these mutual accusations are only a sure symptom testifying to serious deficiencies in the mechanism”, to the fact that, despite all the willingness of “the old state power” to satisfy the bourgeoisie, to meet it half-way and to reserve for it a very influential place in the Duma, and despite the very strong and sincere desire on the part of the bourgeoisie to settle down, establish good relations, come to terms and adjust itself, despite all this, the “adjustment” does not make any headway! This is the substance of the matter, this is the background; the mutual accusations are nothing but trimmings.

Mr. Gromoboi, writing in Golos Moskvy, addresses “a necessary warning” to “the government” (Golos Moskvy, No. 38, of February 17, in an article entitled “A Necessary Warning”). “No displays of ‘firm’ rule,” he writes, “no volitional impulses will give the country peace unless they go hand in hand with reforms which are long overdue.” (Mr. Gromoboi is not very literate in his writings, but the meaning of his words is nevertheless quite clear.) “And the unrest caused by the protracted crisis cannot be given as a force majeure reason for not honouring promissory notes.” (This is an awkward comparison, Mr. Publicist of the Octobrist merchants. In the first place, the notes happen to be unsigned; secondly, even if they were signed, where is the commercial court to which you could appeal and where is the sheriff, etc., who would enforce the judgement? Think it over, Mr. Gromoboi—you will see that not only the Octobrists, but the Cadets too, are a party of spurious promissory notes in politics.) “In such a case unrest will only increase ... the student riots will be followed by much that has been experienced before. If you turn the ship round you are bound to see its wake.... The bet on the weak was lost; now it may turn out that the bet on the strong will also be   lost. The government will have nothing to show. Its hopes that the unrest will subside may vanish like smoke no matter what kind of elections take place.” (Mr. Gromoboi is referring to the elections to the Fourth Duma.) “If the caravans of the opposition begin to move over those cliffs where only the mists of government hovered before, if the government alienates the moderate elements and remains in isolation, the elections will turn into bitter defeat, and the entire system will be shaken because it is not a system based on law.”

Menshikov accuses the bourgeoisie of “instigating” “revolution”; the bourgeoisie accuses the Menshikovs of leading to an increase of unrest”. “It is an old story, but ever new.”

In dealing with the same subject in the Cadet Rech the renegade Izgoyev attempts to draw some sociological conclusions—not realising what a rash thing it is for Cadets in general, and renegades in particular, to undertake such a task. In an article entitled “Juxtaposition” (in the issue of February 14), he draws a comparison between the Congress of the United Nobility and the statement of the sixty-six Moscow merchants. “The United Nobility,” he says, “have sunk to the level of Purishkevich; the Moscow industrialists have begun to talk the language of statesmen.” In the past, Mr. Izgoyev goes on to tell us, “the nobility rendered the people great services in the cultural field”, but “only a minority engaged in cultural activity, while the majority kept the people down.... But such, in general, is the law of history that only the minority of a given class acts in a progressive way.”

Very, very fine. “Such, in general, is the law of history.” This is what the Cadet Rech says through the mouth of Mr. Izgoyev. On closer examination, however, we discover to our amazement that the “general laws of history” do not hold good beyond the confines of the feudal nobility and the liberal bourgeoisie. Indeed, let us recall Vekhi, to which the same Mr. Izgoyev contributed, and against which the most prominent Cadets carried on a polemic, but in such a way as to deal only with details, without touching upon fundamentals, principles, essentials. The essential view set forth in Vekhi—one shared by all the Cadets and expressed a thousand times by Messrs. Milyukov and Co.—is that,   except for the reactionary nobility and the liberal bourgeoisie, each class in Russia has revealed itself (in the first decade of the present century) by the actions of a minority who succumbed to the “intoxication”, were swept along by “intellectual leaders”, and are unable to rise to a “statesmanlike” view of things. “We must have the courage to admit,” wrote Mr. Izgoyev in Vekhi, “that the vast majority of members of our State Dumas, with the exception of thirty or forty Cadets and Octobrists, have not shown themselves to possess the knowledge required to undertake the job of governing and reconstructing Russia.” Everybody will understand that this refers to the peasant deputies, the Trudoviks, and the workers’ deputies.

Consequently, it is “in general, the law of history” that “only the minority of a given class acts in a progressive way”, If it is the minority of the bourgeoisie that acts, then it is a progressive minority, justified by the “general law of history”. “Once the minority obtains an opportunity to act, moral prestige extends to the entire class,” Mr. Izgoyev informs us. But if it is a minority of peasants or of workers that acts, then this by no means corresponds to “the law of history”, this is by no means “the progressive minority of the given class”, this minority by no means possesses the “moral prestige” enabling it to speak on behalf of the “entire” class—no, nothing of the kind: this is a minority led astray by “intellectuals”, it is not, according to Vekhi, statesmanlike, it is anti-historic, has no roots, etc.

It is a risky business for Cadets in general and for Vekhi writers in particular to indulge in generalisations, because every attempt they make at generalisations inevitably exposes the inherent affinity between the arguments of the Cadets and those of Menshikov.

Rossiya and Zemshchina[5] argue: the sixty-six merchants are a minority by no means representing the class, they have not shown themselves to possess either the knowledge or the ability “to govern and reconstruct Russia”; moreover, they are not even merchants, but “intellectuals” who have been led astray, etc., etc.

The Izgoyevs and the Milyukovs argue: the Trudoviks and the workers’ deputies in our State Dumas, for example, are minorities which by no means represent their classes   (i. e., nine-tenths of the population); they have been led astray by “intellectuals”, have not shown themselves to possess either the knowledge or the ability to “govern and reconstruct Russia”, etc., etc.

How is this inherent affinity between the arguments of Rossiya and Zemshchina, on the one hand, and those of Rech and Russkiye Vedomosti on the other, to be accounted for? The reason is this: despite the differences in the classes represented by these two groups of newspapers, neither class is any longer capable of any material, independent, creative and decisive historical action that is progressive. Not merely the first but the second group of newspapers, not only the reactionaries, but the liberals, too, represent a class that is afraid of historical, independent action on the part of other, broader, sections, groups or masses of the population, of other numerically stronger classes.

Mr. Izgoyev, as a renegade “Marxist”, will certainly see a crying contradiction in this: on the one hand, we recognise Russia’s capitalist development and, consequently, its inherent tendency towards the fullest possible and purest possible rule of the bourgeoisie both in the economic and in the political sphere; on the other hand, we declare that the liberal bourgeoisie is no longer capable of independent, creative historical action!

This “contradiction” exists in real life, and is not the result of faulty reasoning. The inevitability of bourgeois rule does not in the least imply that the liberal bourgeoisie is capable of such displays of historical independent activity as might free it from its “enslavement” to the Purishkeviches. In the first place, history does not move along a smooth and easy road, such as would imply that every historically ripe change means ipso facto that precisely the class which stands to profit most by it, is mature and strong enough to carry this change into effect. Secondly, in addition to the liberal bourgeoisie, there is yet another bourgeoisie; for instance, the entire peasantry, taken in the mass, is nothing but the democratic bourgeoisie. Thirdly, the history of Europe shows us that some changes, bourgeois in their social sub stance, were accomplished by elements whose background was by no means bourgeois. Fourthly, we see the same thing in the history of Russia during the past half-century.

When the ideologists and leaders of the liberals begin to argue the way the Karaulovs, the Maklakovs, the Milyukovs and the Vekhi writers do, that means that a number of historical factors have caused the liberal bourgeoisie to exhibit such a pronounced tendency to “beat a retreat” and to show such dread of moving forward, that this forward movement will pass them by, will go beyond them, in spite of their fears. And an altercation such as mutual accusations of being responsible for “increasing unrest” hurled by Gromoboi at Menshikov and by Menshikov at Gromoboi,[1] is but a sign that this historical movement forward is beginning to be felt by all....

Contemporary society,” says Mr. Izgoyev in the same article, “based on the principle of private property, is a class society, and for the time being it cannot be anything else. Whenever one class is tottering another class is always striving to step into its place.”

What a clever chap,” Mr. Milyukov must think when he reads such tirades in his Rech. It is rather pleasant to have a Cadet who was a Social-Democrat at the age of twenty-five and by the time he reached thirty-five had “come to his senses” and repented of his errors.

It is rash on your part, Mr. Izgoyev, to dabble in generalisations. Contemporary society is admittedly a class society. Can there be a party in a class society which does not represent a class? You have probably guessed that there cannot be. Then why make such a faux pas, why do you prate about a “class society” in the organ of a party which prides itself on, and sees its merit in calling itself a non-class party? (Other people who, not only in words, not merely for the sake of journalistic prattle, recognise contemporary society as a class society, regard such talk as hypocrisy or short-sightedness.)

When you turn your face to the United Nobility or to the liberal Moscow merchants you shout that contemporary society is a class society. But when you have to, when unpleasant (ah, how terribly unpleasant!) events compel you to turn around, even if for a brief moment, to face the peasants   or the workers, you begin to rail at the narrow, lifeless, fossilised, immoral, materialist, godless and unscientific “doctrine” of the class struggle. You would surely do better, Mr. Izgoyev, not to tackle any sociological generalisations! Don’t ask for trouble.

Whenever one class is tottering another class is always striving to step into its place.”

Not always, Mr. Izgoyev. It happens at times that the two classes, the one that is tottering and the one that “is striving”, are both in an advanced stage of decay—one more, the other less, of course, but both are in an advanced stage of decay. It happens that, feeling its decay, the class that “is striving” forward is afraid of taking a step forward, and when it does take such a step it is sure to lose no time in taking two steps back. It happens that the liberal bourgeoisie (as was the case in Germany, for instance, and particularly in Prussia) is afraid to “step into the place” of the tottering class, but exerts every effort to “share the place” or, rather, to obtain any kind of place, even if it be in the servants’ hall—anything rather than step into the place of the “tottering”, anything rather than bring matters to the point where the tottering would “fall”. Such things happen, Mr. Izgoyev.

In historical periods when such things do happen, the liberals, if they succeed in passing themselves off as democrats, are liable to bring (and they do bring) the greatest harm to the entire cause of social development; for the difference between the liberals and the democrats is precisely that the former are afraid “to step into the place”, while the latter are not. Both the former and the latter are engaged in accomplishing the historically ripe bourgeois change; but the former are afraid to accomplish it, are hindering it by their fear, while the latter, although they often share many illusions on the results that will derive from the bourgeois change, put all their strength and their very soul into its accomplishment.

In illustration of these general sociological reflections, I shall take the liberty of citing one example of a liberal who does not strive, but is afraid to “step into the place” of the tottering class, and who is, therefore (consciously or   unconsciously, that makes no difference), most flagrantly deceiving the population when he calls himself a “democrat”. This liberal is the landlord A. Y. Berezovsky the First, Member of the Third Duma, a Cadet. During the debate in the Duma on the agrarian question (in 1908) he delivered the following speech, which was approved of by the leader of the Party, Mr. Milyukov, who described it as “splendid”. In view of the forthcoming elections, we make bold to think that it will not be amiss to recall that speech.

“... It is my profound conviction,” Mr. Berezovsky said in defending the Agrarian Bill before the State Duma on October 27, 1908, “that this Bill is much more advantageous to the landowners, too, and I am saying this, gentlemen, as one who knows farming, since I own land and have en gaged in it all my life.... You must not seize upon the bare fact of compulsory alienation, wax indignant over it and declare that it would be an act of violence; you must examine what this proposition amounts to, what, for instance, the Bill of the 42 members of the First State Duma proposed. That Bill contained only the recognition of the necessity of alienating in the first place the land that is not exploited by the owners themselves, that is cultivated by peasants using their own implements and animals, and, finally, land that is let out to tenants. Further, the party of people’s freedom supported the proposal that committees be organised in the localities, which, after working for some time, perhaps even for a number of years, were to ascertain which land was subject to alienation, which was not, and how much land was needed to satisfy the peasants. The committees were to be so constituted that half their membership would have been made up of peasants, and the other half of non-peasants; and it seems to me that in the general actual situation which would thus have been created in the localities, it would have been possible to ascertain properly both how much land there was that could be alienated and how much land was needed for the peasants; and, finally, the peasants would have seen for themselves to what extent their just demands could be satisfied and to what extent their desire to get a lot of land was often wrong and unjustified. Then this material would have been referred to the Duma for further elaboration, after which it would have been referred to   the Council of State,[6] and, finally, it would have been submitted to the tsar for his sanction. That,properly speaking, was the method of procedure at which, for some unknown reason, the government took fright, dissolved the Duma, and thus brought about the present state of affairs. This systematic work would undoubtedly have had as its result, the satisfaction of the true needs of the population and consequently, its pacification, and the preservation of the efficiently run estates, which the party of people’s freedom never intended to destroy unless there was an extreme need for this.” (Verbatim Reports, p. 398.)

When Mr. Izgoyev, who belongs to the same party as Mr. Berezovsky, writes in his article “Juxtaposition” that “Russia is a democratic country and will not tolerate any oligarchy, either new or old”, we can see quite clearly what this kind of talk really means. Russia is by no means a democratic country, nor will she ever become one so long as fairly large sections of the population regard a party like the Cadets as a democratic party. This bitter truth is a thou sand times more vital to the people than the honeyed lies dispensed by the representatives of the half-hearted, spine less, and unprincipled liberal oligarchy, the Cadets. The more such “altercations” as those between the Menshikovs and the sixty-six and Gromoboi become the order of the day the more necessary it is to remind people of this bitter truth.


[1] By the liberal merchants at the nobility and by the nobility at the liberal merchants. —Lenin

[2] Gromoboi—contributor to Golos Moskvy (Voice of Moscow).

Izgoyev—a Cadet publicist, contributor to Vekhi (Landmarks) and Rech (Speech) collaborator.

[3] The statement made by 66 representatives of Moscow commercial and industrial capital, was printed in Russkiye Vedomosti, No. 33, February 11(24), 1911. While recognising the need to combat the students’ strikes, the authors of the statement also condemned the government action on the grounds that its measures against the participants in student disturbances jeopardised the existence of the higher school.

[4] Golos Moskvy (Voice of Moscow)—a daily newspaper, organ of the Octobrists, the counter-revolutionary party of the big industrial bourgeoisie and the landlords; published in Moscow from December 1906 to June 1915.

[5] Zemshchina (Land Affairs)—a daily Black-Hundred newspaper, published in St. Petersburg from July 1909 to February 1917; organ of the extreme Right deputies to the State Duma.

[6] Council of State—one of the highest state bodies in tsarist Russia. Formed in 1810, according to M. M. Speransky’s plan, as a legislative-consultative body whose members were appointed and con firmed by the tsar. It was a reactionary body which voted down even the most moderate bills adopted by the State Duma.

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