V. I.   Lenin

A Liberal Labour Party Manifesto



Since we are not inclined to accept the liberal wishes or liberal conjectures as reality, we have reached a different conclusion. Without doubt the present agrarian policy is bourgeois in character. But since it is the Purishkeviches who are directing this bourgeois policy, who remain masters of the situation, the result is such a tremendous accentuation of the contradictions that, for the immediate future, at any rate, the likelihood of a compromise must be considered entirely out of the question.

Another important social process, says R-kov in continuing his analysis, is the process of the consolidation of the   big industrial and commercial bourgeoisie. Correctly indicating the “mutual concessions” of the Constitutional-Democrats and the Octobrists, the author draws the conclusion: “We must not cherish any illusions—what we see in the offing is the triumph of a quite moderate bourgeois ‘progressism’”.

Trumph?—Where? Over whom? Is it at the elections to the Fourth Duma of which R-kov has just spoken? If that is what he means, then it will be a “triumph” within the narrow confines of the election law of June 3, 1907. Hence one of two conclusions is inevitable: either the “triumph” will not set up a wave and thus the actual domination of the Purishkeviches will in no way be changed; or this “triumph” will indirectly be the expression of a democratic revival which is bound to come into sharp conflict with the above-mentioned “narrow confines” and with the domination of the Purishkeviches.

In either case the triumph of moderation at elections conducted within moderate bounds will not bring about the least triumph of moderation in real life. The point is, how ever, that R-kov has already lapsed into a state of “parliamentary cretinism”, which enables him to confuse elections conducted on the basis of the June Third law with reality! To demonstrate this incredible fact to the reader we must quote R-kov in full:

And this triumph is all the more probable since the mass of the urban petty bourgeoisie which, in its philistine way, is dejectedly contemplating its shattered illusions, will helplessly gravitate to wards moderate progressism, and the peasantry will be all too weak at the elections because the peculiar features of our electoral system enable the landowners who predominate in the gubernia panels of electors to elect ‘Rights’ to represent the peasants. Such is the picture of the social changes that are taking place in Russia at present, if, for the time being, we leave the working class out of consideration. It is by no means a picture of stagnation or of regression. New, bourgeois, Russia is undoubtedly gaining in strength and is advancing. The State Duma, based on the electoral system established on June 3, 1907, will provide the political sanction for the coming domination of the moderately progressive industrial and commercial bourgeoisie that will share power with the conservative rural bourgeoisie. (England, pure and simple! We Omit the comparison with France and Prussia, on which we shall dwell below.) Thus, in summing up every thing that has just been said, we must admit that there exist all the prerequisites for a slow, extremely painful for the masses, but nevertheless   certain advance of the bourgeois social and political system in Russia. The possibility of storms and upheavals is, naturally, not out of the question, but they will not become something indispensable and inevitable, as was the case before the revolution.”

An intricate philosophy, that one cannot deny. If we leave the peasantry out of account, because it is “weak at the elections”, and if “for the time being, we leave the working class out of consideration”, then, of course, there is absolutely no possibility of upheavals! But what it amounts to is that one who examines Russia from a liberal viewpoint can see nothing but liberal “progressism”. Remove your liberal blinkers and the picture becomes an entirely different one. Since the part played by the peasantry in life is quite different from the part it plays in the June Third electoral system, the fact that it is “weak at the elections”—far from opening the gates to a “moderate progressism”—accentuates the antagonism between the peasantry as a whole and the entire system. Since the working class cannot be left “out of consideration” either in a capitalist country in general, or in Russia after the experience of the first ten years of the twentieth century in particular, R-kov’s argumentation is entirely useless. Since the dominating factor in Russia (both in the Third Duma and above it) is Purishkevichism, occasionally moderated by the grumbling of the Guchkovs and Milyukovs, the talk about the “impending domination” of the moderately progressive bourgeoisie is just a liberal lullaby. Since the Guchkovs and Milyukovs by virtue of their class position can oppose the domination of the Purishkeviches with nothing but their grumbling, a conflict between the new, bourgeois Russia and the Purishkeviches is inevitable, and its motive forces will be those whom R-kov, following the example of the liberals, leaves “out of consideration”. Just because the Milyukovs and Guchkovs are making “mutual concessions” in cringing be fore the Purishkeviches, it is all the more necessary for the workers to draw the line between democracy and liberalism. N. R-kov sees neither the conditions giving rise to upheavals in Russia nor the task just indicated, which is obligatory even in the definite absence of an upheaval.

A vulgar democrat may reduce the whole matter to the question whether there is an upheaval or not. The Marxist   is primarily concerned with the line of political demarcation between the classes, which is the same during an upheaval and in its absence. R-kov’s statement that “the workers must assume the task of exercising political hegemony in the struggle for a democratic regime”, is extraordinary after all he has written in his manifesto. What it means is that R-kov gets a guarantee from the bourgeoisie to recognise the hegemony of the workers, while he himself gives the bourgeoisie a guarantee to the effect that the workers renounce the tasks which constitute the substance of hegemony! After he has removed this substance, leaving no trace whatsoever, R-kov naïvely goes on to repeat a hollow phrase. First he gives an appraisal of the situation from which it is evident that, as far as he is concerned, the hegemony of the liberals is an accomplished, irrevocable, and inescapable fact, and then he tries to assure us that he recognises the hegemony of the working class!

The “real” significance of the Duma, argues R-kov, “is no less than that of the French Legislative Corps during the last years of the Second Empire, or that of the proportional mean between the German Reichstag and the Prussian Landtag that was characteristic of Prussia in the eighties of the past century”.

This kind of comparison is so frivolous that it is mere playing at historical parallels. In France in the sixties the epoch of bourgeois revolutions had long since come to an end, a direct clash between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie was already knocking at the door, and Bonapartism was the expression of the government’s manoeuvring between these two classes. It is ridiculous to compare that situation with contemporary Russia. The Third Duma is more reminiscent of the Chambre introuvable[1] of 1815! In Prussia, the eighties also marked the epoch of the consummation of the bourgeois revolution, which had completed its work by 1870. The entire bourgeoisie, which included both the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie, was contented and reactionary.

Perhaps R-kov fancied he saw a comparison between the role of the democratic and the proletarian deputies in the Legislative Corps and in the Reichstag, and the role of the deputies of the same classes in the Third Duma? That would   be a legitimate comparison; but, then, it would not prove his point, for the conduct of Gegechkori and, to a certain extent, also of Petrov the Third, testifies to such strength, self-confidence, and readiness for battle on the part of the classes which they represent that a “compromise” with the Purishkeviches is not only unlikely but appears to be absolutely out of the question.


[1] Chambre introuvable—the name given by Louis XVIII to the French counter-revolutionary Chamber of Deputies, elected after the restoration of the Bourbons in August 1815. Its composition was so reactionary that Louis XVIII, fearing a new revolutionary outbreak, was forced to dissolve it.

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