Zvezda, No. 26, October 23, 1911.
Signed: V. F..
Published according to the Zvezda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, , Moscow, Volume 17, pages 292-296.
Translated: Dora Cox
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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The controversy between Witte and Guchkov was eagerly seized upon by both Rech and Russkiye Vedomosti, who made use of it in their election campaign. The nature of the controversy is evident from the following tirade in Rech:
“How often the Octobrist fraternity, with Guchkov at their head, joined hands with Mr. Durnovo’s colleagues in order to please the powers that be. How often, with their eyes riveted on the powers that be, did they turn their backs on public opinion!”
This is written because in October and November 1905 Witte conferred with Messrs. Urusov, Trubetskoi, Guchkov, and M. Stakhovich regarding the formation of a Cabinet, and the three last-mentioned were categorically opposed to Durnovo’s candidature for the post of Minister of the Interior.
While reproaching the Octobrists, the Cadet gentlemen, however, reveal an amazingly poor memory about their own past. The Octobrists “joined hands with Mr. Durnovo’s colleagues”. That is true. And it goes to prove, beyond any doubt, that it would be ridiculous to talk about the democratic nature of the Octobrists. The Octobrists lay no claim to democracy. But the Cadets call themselves “Constitutional-Democrats”. Were not these “democrats” who, in the person of Mr. Urusov, supported Durnovo’s candidature at the conferences with Witte, among those who “joined hands with Mr. Durnovo’s colleagues”? Weren’t the Cadets, as a party, in the First and Second Dumas among those who, “with their eyes riveted on the powers that be, turned their backs on public opinion”?
How can one forget or try to distort facts that are generally known? Recall the discussion in the First Duma on the organisation of local land committees. It was precisely “to please the powers that be” that the Cadets opposed this. On this issue (one of the most important political issues in the period of the First Duma) the Cadets were definitely among those who, “with their eyes riveted on the powers that be, turned their backs on public opinion”. For the Trudoviks and the worker deputies, who represented nine-tenths of Russia’s population, were at that time in favour of local land committees. A similar division of the parties in the First and Second Dumas was observed on scores of other occasions as well.
It is hard to imagine how the Cadets could dispute these facts. Can they really assert that they did not disagree with the Trudoviks and the worker deputies in the First and Second Dumas, or that in all those cases they did not go hand in hand with the Heydens, the Octobrists, and the powers that be? Or that the Trudoviks and the worker deputies, because of the existing electoral system, did not represent the vast majority of the population? Or by public opinion do our “democrats” mean the opinion of the “educated public” (educated in the sense of possessing official diplomas), but not the opinion of the majority of the population?
An historical appraisal of the period during which Stolypin held the post of Prime Minister, i.e., the five years from 1906 to 1911, provides incontrovertible proof that neither the Octobrists nor the Cadets were democrats. And since only the Cadets claim this title, it is precisely their self-deception, and their deception of “public opinion”, of the opinion of the masses on this score, that is particularly obnoxious and harmful.
We do not mean to imply, of course, that the Octobrists and the Cadets represent “one reactionary mass”, or that the Octobrists are not less liberal than the Cadets. What we do mean to tell them is that liberalism and democracy are two different things. It is natural for liberals to regard as “public opinion” the opinion of the bourgeoisie, but not that of the workers and peasants. A democrat cannot accept that point of view, and whatever illusions he may at times entertain regarding the interests and aspirations of the masses, the democrat has faith in the masses, in the action of the masses, in the legitimacy of their sentiments and the expediency of their methods of struggle.
The greater the abuse of the name of democrat, the more insistently must this difference between liberalism and democracy be borne in mind. In all bourgeois countries elections serve as a means of gaining publicity for the bourgeois parties. From the working-class point of view, elections and the election campaign must serve the aim of political enlightenment, of bringing out the true nature of the various parties. Political parties cannot be judged by their names, declarations or programmes; they must be judged by their deeds.
The controversy between Witte and Guchkov, which touched upon the question of how Stolypin was started on his ministerial career (incidentally, Guchkov testifies that in the autumn of 1905 none of the “public figures” objected to Stolypin’s candidature), raises a number of other, much more important and pertinent, questions.
The first time Stolypin was mentioned as candidate for the post of Minister of the Interior (in the autumn of 1905) was at a conference Witte held with representatives of the liberal bourgeoisie. Even during the period of the First Duma, Stolypin, in his capacity of Minister of the Interior, “on two occasions, with Kryzhanovsky acting as intermediary, ... made overtures to Muromtsev, proposing to discuss the possibility of forming a Cadet Cabinet”. That is what Rech wrote in an editorial on September 6, prefacing this statement with the cautious and evasive reservation that “there are indications” that Stolypin did act in that way. It is sufficient to recall that the Cadets had previously either maintained silence on this score, or met any such “indications “with abuse. Now they themselves refer to these indications, thereby obviously confirming their accuracy.
Let us go further in this matter. After the dissolution of the First Duma, when Stolypin became Prime Minister, direct offers to join the Cabinet were made to Heyden, Lvov, and M. Stakhovich. After the failure of this “combination”, “P. A. Stolypin, during the first interim between two Dumas, established intimate political connections with Guchkov”, and, as we know, these connections were maintained up to 1911.
What is the sum total of all this? Stolypin’s candidature for the post of Minister was discussed with the representatives of the bourgeoisie; then, during his entire ministerial career, from 1906 to 1911, Stolypin made “overtures” to one set of representatives of the bourgeoisie after another, initiating, or trying to initiate, political relations first with the Cadets, then with the Party of Peaceful Renovation, and, finally, with the Octobrists. First Stolypin, as candidate for the post of Minister, was “proposed” to the “public figures”, i.e., to the leaders of the bourgeoisie; then Stolypin—during the whole of his career in his capacity as Minister—made “overtures” to the Muromtsevs, Heydens, and Guchkovs. Stolypin’s career came to an end (it is a well-known fact that Stolypin’s resignation was imminent) when he had exhausted the whole list of bourgeois parties and groups to whom he could make “overtures”.
The conclusion to be drawn from these facts is clear. If the Cadets and the Octobrists are now wrangling over the question as to who was more sycophantic in the negotiations about ministers or with ministers—Urusov or Guchkov, Muromtsev or Heyden, Milyukov or Stakhovich and so on and so forth—it is nothing but a petty squabble which only serves to distract the attention of the public from a vital political question. This vital question is obviously the necessity to understand the conditions and meaning of that particular epoch in the history of the Russian political regime, when ministers were compelled systematically to make “overtures” to the leaders of the bourgeoisie, when ministers could find at least some common ground with those leaders, a common ground for frequently conducting negotiations. What is important is not the question as to who was more sycophantic during those negotiations—X or Z—but, first, the fact that the old landowning class could no longer rule without making “overtures” to the leaders of the bourgeoisie; and,, secondly, that the diehard landowner and the bourgeois found a common ground for negotiations, and that common ground was their counter-revolutionism.
Stolypin was not merely a minister of the landowners who had experienced the year 1905; no, he was also a minister during the period of counter-revolutionary sentiments among the bourgeoisie, when the landowners had to make overtures to them, and could make them because of their common hatred for “nineteen-five”. These sentiments of the bourgeoisie—even if we take only the Cadets, the most Left of the “liberal” parties—were expressed in the sermons of Vekhi, which showered abuse on democracy and the movement of the masses, and in Milyukov’s “London” slogan, in the numerous unctuous speeches by Karaulov, in the speech of Berezovsky the First on the agrarian question, etc.
It is this particular aspect of the matter that all our liberals, the entire liberal press, and the liberal labour politicians tend to forget. Yet this aspect of the matter is the most important; it explains the historical distinction between the conditions under which landowners were made governors and ministers in the nineteenth century or in the beginning of the twentieth century, and those obtaining after 1905. In its altercation with Guchkov, the Cadet Rech writes (September 30): “Russian society well remembers Octobrism’s record of service”.
Of course they do! The liberal public well remember the petty squabble “between friends”—between the Urusovs and Milyukovs on the one hand and the Heydens, Lvovs, and Guchkovs on the other. But Russian democracy in general, and working-class democracy in particular, remember very well the “record” of the entire liberal bourgeoisie, the Cadets included; they remember very well that the great upheaval of 1905 drove the landowners and the landowners’ bureaucracy to seek the support of the bourgeoisie, and that the bourgeoisie took advantage of its position in a remark ably fitting manner: it fully agreed with the landowners that local land committees are unnecessary—nay, harmful; and it differed from them on an exceptionally vital question, truly a question of principle—namely: Durnovo or Stolypin!