We sometimes come across literary efforts whose only significance lies in their Herostratean nature. A most ordinary literary work, as, for instance, Eduard Bernstein’s well-known The Premises of Socialism, assumes outstanding political significance and becomes the manifesto of a trend amongst Marxists, although it departs from Marxism all along the line. Similar outstanding significance, by reason of their Herostratean nature, undoubtedly attaches to Mr. Potresov’s article on trivialities in last year’s February issue of Nasha Zarya, and V. Bazarov’s article in reply to it in the April Nasha Zarya. To be sure, the questions discussed in these articles are far from being so profound or of such wide scope, and have not the same international significance, as the questions raised by Bernstein (or, rather, which he put forward after the bourgeoisie had already done so), but for us Russians, In the period of 1908–9--10–?, these are questions of tremendous and cardinal importance. That is why Mr. Potresov’s and V. Bazarov’s articles are not out of date, and it is necessary, it is our duty, to deal with them.
Mr. Potresov, who is fond of artificial, flowery and laboured expressions, devotes his article to “the contemporary drama of our social and political trends”. Actually, there is not the slightest trace of the dramatic in what he says, or can say, of the post-revolutionary evolution of liberalism, Narodism and Marxism, which he took it upon himself to discuss. But you cannot get away from the comic in Mr. Potresov’s reflections.
“It is precisely liberalism as an ideological trend,” writes Mr. Potresov, “that presents a picture of the greatest degeneration and the greatest helplessness. We need only consider the widening gulf between practical liberalism and theorising liberalism”—between the “empiricism” of Milyukov’s Rech and the theories of Vekhi.
Tut, tut, my dear sir! The gulf is widening between what you and semi-liberals like you said and thought of the Cadets in 1905-6-7 and what you are compelled to admit, stuttering and contradicting yourself, in 1909–10. The contradiction between the “empiricism” of the practical liberals and the theories of gentlemen á la Struve was fully apparent even before 1905. Just recall how the Osvobozhdeniye of those days blundered in literally every one of its attempts at “theorising”. Since you are now beginning to put two and two together, and find that liberalism “seems” to be “broken up” (this is yet another of your verbal tricks, an empty phrase, for Vekhi has not broken with Rech, or vice versa; they have been, are, and will go on living in perfect harmony with each other), that it is “sterile”, “suspended in mid-air”, and represents but the “least stable” (sic!) “section of bourgeois democrats”, who are “not bad as voters”, etc.—your cries about the “drama” of liberalism merely signify the tragicomedy of the collapse of your illusions. It is not at the present time, not during the three years 1908–10, but in the preceding three-year period that the liberals “seemed” to be the least stable section of bourgeois democrats. The “least stable” are those quasi-socialists who serve mustard to the public after supper. The distinguishing feature of the previous three-year period (insofar as the question examined by Mr. Potresov is concerned) was liberalism “suspended in mid-air”, “sterile”, “voting”, etc., liberalism. At that time it was the political duty of the day to recognise the nature of liberalism for what it was; it was the urgent duty, not only of socialists, but also of consistent democrats, to warn the masses of this. March 1906, not February 1910—that was the time when it was important to sound the warning that the liberalism of the Cadets was suspended in mid-air, that it was sterile, that the objective conditions reduced it to nothingness, to the farce of being “not bad as voters”; that the victories of the Cadets represented an unstable zigzag between the “serious” constitutionalism (read: sham constitutionalism) of the Shipovs or Guchkovs and the struggle for democracy waged by those elements that were not suspended in mid-air and did not confine themselves to the fond contemplation of ballots. Just call to mind, my dear sir, who it was that spoke the truth about the liberals at the proper time, in March 1906.
The distinguishing feature, the peculiar characteristic of the three-year period (1908–10) under discussion is by no means the “sterility” of liberalism “suspended in mid-air”, etc. Quite the contrary. Nothing has changed in the class impotence of the liberals, in their dread of democracy, and in their political inanity; but this impotence reached its height at a time when there were opportunities to display strength, when conditions made it possible for the liberals to hold full sway in at least a certain field of action. Thus, for instance, at the time the Cadets had a majority in the First Duma, they were in a position to use their majority either to serve democracy or to hamper the cause of democracy, to render assistance to democracy (even if only in such a small matter, as, let us say, the organisation of local land committees) or to stab democracy in the back. And that period was characterised by the Cadets being “suspended in mid-air”, and those who were “not bad as voters” proving to be nothing but inventors of instructions for the subsequent Octobrist Duma.
In the three-year period that followed, the Cadets, while remaining true to themselves, were less “suspended in mid air” than before. You, Mr. Potresov, resemble that hero of popular lore who loudly voices his wishes and opinions at inappropriate times. The 1909 Vekhi group is less “suspended in mid-air” than Muromtsev was in 1906, for it is of real use and renders practical service to the class which represents a great power in Russia’s national economy, namely, the landowners and capitalists. The Vekhi group helps these worthy gentlemen collect an armoury of weapons for their ideological and political struggle against democracy and socialism. This is something that cannot be destroyed by dissolutions of the Duma or, in general, by any political disturbances occurring under the existing social and economic system. As long as the class of landed proprietors and capitalists exists, their hack journalists, the Izgoyevs, Struves, Franks and Co. will also exist. As far as the “work” of the Muromtsevs and, in general, of the Cadets in the First Duma is concerned, it could be “destroyed” by the dissolution of the Duma (for, in point of fact, they did not do any work; they only indulged in words which, far from serving the people, corrupted them).
The Cadets in the Third Duma are the same party, with the same ideology, the same policy, and to a large degree even the same people, as those in the First Duma. And that is precisely why the Cadets in the Third Duma are less “suspended in mid-air” than they were in the First Duma. Don’t you understand this, my dear Mr. Potresov? You were wrong in undertaking a discussion of “the contemporary drama of our social and political trends”! Let me tell you, in strict confidence, that in the future, too, and probably for quite some time to come, the political activity of the Cadets will not be “sterile”—not only because of the reactionary “fecundity” of Vekhi, but also because so long as there are political minnows in the ranks of democracy, there will be food for the big fish of liberalism to thrive on. So long as there is the kind of instability in the ranks of the socialists, the kind of flabbiness among the representatives of democracy so vividly exemplified by figures like Potresov, the skill of the “empiricists” of liberalism will always prove sufficient to catch these minnows. Don’t worry, Cadets: you’ll have plenty to feed on so long as the Potresovs exist!
 Osvobozhdeniye (Emancipation)—a fortnightly bourgeois-liberal magazine, published abroad from 1902 to 1905 under the editorship of P. B. Struve. From January 1904 it became the organ of the liberal-monarchist Osvobozhdeniye League. Later, the Osvobozhdeniye group made up the core of the Cadet Party, the chief bourgeois party in Russia.
 Lenin refers to his article “The Victory of the Cadets and the Tasks of the Workers’ Party”, written in March 1906, and published as a pamphlet in April of that year
 Octobrists—members of the Union of October Seventeenth, founded in November 1905, as a counter-revolutionary party representing the big industrial and commercial capitalists and the land lords who farmed their land on capitalist lines. The Octobrists claimed to accept the Manifesto of October 17, but fully supported the domestic and foreign policy of the tsarist government. The leaders of the Octobrists were K. Guchkov, a big industrialist, and M. Rodzyanko, who owned huge landed estates.