Zvezda, No. 28, November 5, 1911.
Published according to the Zvezda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, , Moscow, Volume 17, pages 297-299.
Translated: Dora Cox
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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The opening of the last session of the Third Duma immediately raised the question as to the results of the work of that body. One of the principal results maybe formulated in the words of Rech, which recently stated in a leading article:
“A number of votes recently taken in the Duma actually reflect the domination of a ‘Left Centre’ in that body.... The real activity of the Duma, that concerns the vital interests and demands of life, from the very beginning of the session has invariably and systematically proceeded along the lines of a Left Centre (non-existent, of course).”
And, as if to catch out the Prime Minister himself, Rech exclaims in a transport of rejoicing: “Mr. Kokovtsov did not hesitate [in his first speech] to declare three times that he was fully in agreement with the arguments of [the Cadet] Stepanov”.
It is an indisputable fact that a “Left Centre” actually does exist. Only, it is open to question whether this fact is a symptom of “life” or of stagnation.
From the very beginning there have been two possible majorities in the Third Duma. As far back as the end of 1907, before this Duma began its “activities”, the Marxist estimate of the situation and of the Third Duma centred around the recognition of the existence of these “two possible majorities” and their characterisation.
One majority is the Black-Hundred and Right-Octobrist combination, the other—that of the Octobrists and Cadets. The Third Duma was elected on the basis of a law so devised as to produce these two possible majorities. Our liberals pretend in vain that they do not see this.
It was neither accident nor the, cunning calculation of individuals, but the entire course of the class struggle in the 1905–07 period, that forced the government to take this path, and no other. Events had shown that it was impossible to bank on the mass of the population. Previously, before the “events”, it had been possible to maintain the illusion of an official “popular policy”, but that illusion had been shattered by the events. It had become necessary to bank openly and cynically on one ruling class—the class of the Purishkeviches and Markovs—and on the sympathy or the fright of the bourgeoisie. The dominating tendency among some sections of the bourgeoisie was an eager desire to render systematic support (the Octobrists); among other sections it was sympathy for so-called “law and order” or fright (the Cadets)—the difference was of no material importance.
The change referred to in the entire political system of Russia was already indicated by the conversations which Witte, Trepov, and Stolypin had conducted since the end of 1905 with Urusov, Trubetskoi, Guchkov, Muromtsev, and Milyukov. This change became fully defined and assumed a state-constitutional form in the Third Duma with its two possible majorities.
There is no need to dwell upon the reason why the present political regime is in need of the first majority. But people are wont to forget that it stands in just as much need of the second—that of the Octobrists and the Cadets. Without the “bourgeois plaintiff” the government could not be what it is. Unless it comes to terms with the bourgeoisie it cannot exist. Without attempts to reconcile the Purishkeviches and Markovs with a bourgeois system and with the bourgeois development of Russia, neither the Ministry of Finance nor all the ministries combined can survive.
And if today the “Left Centre”, despite its unassuming character, proves to be dissatisfied, it testifies, of course, to the growing conviction among the bourgeoisie as a whole that its sacrifices on the altar of the Purishkeviches have been made in vain.
But “the vital interests and demands of life” cannot be satisfied by these lamentations and complaints of the “Left Centre”; they can only be satisfied if all the forces of democracy are aware of the causes of the impotence and wretched position of the Centre. This is because the entire Centre, including the Loft, is counter-revolutionary: the Purishkeviches make them groan but the Centre will not and cannot dispense with them. That is why theirs is such a bitter lot, that is why the Left Centre cannot boast a single victory, not even a shred of a victory.
The “Left Centre” of which Rech speaks, represents death and not life—at decisive moments of Russian history, all those belonging to it became scared of democracy and turned their backs on it. But the cause of democracy is a live cause, the most vital in Russia.
The vital interests and demands of life are asserting them selves in spheres that are far removed from the “Left Centre” which occupies the whole attention of the Cadets. On reading, for instance, the reports on the Duma debate on the secret political police, the thoughtful reader naturally could not help noticing that the presentation of the question in the speeches of Pokrovsky the Second and, particularly, of Gegechkori, was vastly different from that of Rodichev and his colleagues, as different as earth and sky, as life and death.