V. I.   Lenin

A Talk on “Cadet-Eating”

Published: Nevskaya Zvezda No. 23, August 26, 1912. Signed: K.S.—y. Published according to the text in Nevskaya Zvezda.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 292-298.
Translated: Stepan Apresyan
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.README

Pravda and Nevskaya Zvezda have administered a stern but well-deserved rebuttal to Messrs. Blank, Korobka, Kuskova and Co. for their foul liberal attacks against the working-class press.

Nevertheless, however good the answers given to “the gentlemen boycotting the workers” may have been, there is still a most important question of principle to be examined. The Blanks and Kuskovas sought by their crude lies to hush it up, to obscure it. But we must not allow questions of principle to be obscured; we must reveal their full significance, bringing to light the roots of the differences, which are of interest to every class-conscious worker, from beneath the heap of Blank-Kuskova distortions, calumnies and abuse.

One of these roots may be described by the term “Cadet eating”. Listen to the solitary but persistent voices of the liquidators, to the remarks of people whose party views are somewhat indefinite, and you will often encounter, if not an accusation against Pravda and Nevskaya Zvezda, at least head-shaking on account of their “Cadet-eating”.

Let us, therefore, examine the question of “Cadet-eating”, which is a question of principle.

There are two circumstances which explain first of all, and most of all, the occurrence of such an accusation against Pravda: (1) failure to understand the essence of the question of “two and three camps” in the election campaign and in present-day politics in general; (2) lack of consideration for the special conditions in which the Marxist press—the newspapers of the worker democrats—has now been placed.

Let us begin with the first question.

All the liberals adhere to the theory of two camps: for a constitution and against a constitution. They are all agreed on this, from Milyukov to Izgoyev, and from Prokopovich to M. M. Kovalevsky. Nor must we forget that the theory of two camps necessarily follows from the class nature of our liberals.

What is this nature from the economic point of view? It is the fact that the liberals are a party of the bourgeoisie, which is afraid of the movement of the peasant masses, and still more of the workers’ movement, for this movement is capable of limiting (at present, in the immediate future, without changing the capitalist system as a whole) the extent and forms of the bourgeoisie’s economic privileges. And the economic privilege of the bourgeoisie is ownership of capital, an ownership which in Russia yields twice or three times as much profit as in Europe.

To uphold this “Russian” superprofit, it is necessary to prevent the third camp from gaining independence.

For example, the bourgeoisie can rule quite well even if the working day is eight hours. In fact, its rule will then be fuller, purer, wider and freer than with a ten- or eleven-hour day. But the dialectics of the class struggle are such that, unless there is an extreme need, unless it is the last remedy, the bourgeoisie will never replace the tranquil, habitual, profitable (from an Oblomov[4] point of view) ten-hour day by an eight-hour one.

What we have said about an eight-hour day applies to the upper chamber, to landlordism and many other things.

The bourgeoisie will not relinquish the tranquil, convenient, profitable, old-Russian forms of exploitation to replace them only by European, only by democratic forms (for democracy, let it be said without offence to the ardent heroes of Zavety, is also a form of bourgeois rule); it will not do so, we say, unless there is an extreme need, and unless it is the last remedy.

This need can arise only from the movement of the masses achieving a certain system and strength. And the bourgeoisie, which upholds its economic interests, is fighting against this movement, that is to say, against the independence of the third camp.

What is the class nature of liberalism from the political point of view? It is fear of the movement of these same social elements, for that movement is capable of undermining political privileges which the bourgeoisie values. Liberalism dreads democracy more than reaction. This was proved in 1905, 1906 and 1907.

To retain any part of the political privileges, it is necessary to prevent the independence of the third camp, to keep all opposition in none but the position expressed by the formula “for or against a constitution”.

This formula expresses an exclusively constitutional position. It does not go beyond constitutional reforms. The essence of this formula was excellently and accurately expressed by Mr. Gredeskul—who inadvertently blurted out more than he had meant to—in those statements of his which Rech repeated without a single reservation and which Pravda reproduced not long ago.[1]

The essence of this formula is quite in the spirit of Vekhi, for Vekhi wants nothing better and has, in fact, never preached anything else. Vekhi is not at all against a constitution or constitutional reforms. It is “only” against the democrats, with their criticism of any sort of constitutional illusions.

The Russian liberals have proved to be sufficiently “adroit” politicians to call themselves “democratic” with a view to fighting the democrats and suppressing the latter’s independence. Such is the usual and normal method used by every liberal bourgeoisie in all capitalist countries: deceiving the masses with a democratic façade in order to deflect them from a truly democratic theory and truly democratic practice.

But the experience of all countries, including Russia, has shown beyond question that only such practice is capable of ensuring real progress, whereas liberalism inevitably dooms itself to impotence by its fear of democracy, and its Vekhi-Gredeskul theories: the impotence of Russian liberalism in 1861–1904, and of German liberalism in 1849–1912.

The third camp, that of democracy, which understands the narrowness of liberalism and is free from its half-heartedness   and flabbiness, from its vacillation and timid back ward looks, cannot take shape, cannot exist, without systematic, undeviating, day-by-day criticism of liberalism.

Those who scornfully or with ill-will dub this criticism “Cadet-eating” are thereby advocating precisely liberal views—deliberately or unwittingly. For, in practice, all criticism of Cadetism is thereby, by its very presentation of questions, a criticism of reaction, of the Rights. Our polemic against the liberals, said Nevskaya Zvezda (No. 12)[2] very justly, “is more profound and richer in content than the fight against the Rights”.[3]

In reality there is hardly one Marxist newspaper for every hundred liberal papers in Russia, so that it is simply ridiculous to talk about our “exaggerated” criticism of the Cadets: we are not yet doing even one-hundredth of what is necessary in order that the sentiment of “general opposition” prevailing in society and among the people may be replaced by an anti-liberal, definitely and consciously democratic sentiment.

Without such a “replacement”, nothing sensible and useful has ever come about, or will come about in Russia.

Accusations of “Cadet-eating”, or scornful smiles at “Cadet eating”, are no more than a falcon de parler, a way of advocating liberal views, or the views of a liberal labour policy when there is a discussion before or about workers.

From the standpoint of liquidationism that is at all consistent and thought out, accusations of “Cadet-eating” are understandable and necessary. They express the essence of liquidationism.

Look at the liquidationist views as a whole—at their inner logic, at their interconnection and the interdependence of the various theses: “freedom of association” is a constitutional reform; economic strikes are supplemented with a “political revival”, no more; a far-reaching election platform is declared to be “lunacy”; the task is formulated as one of fighting for the open existence of the Party, i.e., is also formulated as a constitutional reform; the regime in Russia is declared to be bourgeois already (Larin); the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie is declared to be already a ruling class; the workers are told that it is “sufficient” to seize on the contradiction between absolutism and constitutionalism (Martov).

Taken as a whole, this is reformism, it is the system of views of a liberal labour policy. It makes no difference at all that some Ivan or Pyotr, in defending these views (some part or other of them, for liquidationism is going through a “process of growth of growing tasks”), himself thinks he is a Marxist.

The point at issue is not their good intentions (of those who have any), but the objective significance of their policy, i.e., what its results are, cui prodest—whom it benefits, to whose mill it actually brings grist.

This is defence of the workers’ interests on the basis provided by the “struggle” (or is it bickering?) between the liberals and the Rights; it is not a struggle for a democratic, anti-liberal basis of sapping the strength of the Rights. The liquidators are supporters of the workers, there is no doubt of that. But they understand the interests of the workers in such a way that they uphold these interests within the frame work of the Russia which the liberals promise to build, not of the Russia which the democrats were building yesterday, and will be building tomorrow (and which they are invisibly building even today), in spite of the liberals.

That is the crux of the matter. So far there is no new Russia. It has yet to be built. Should the workers build themselves a nest of a “class” (in effect a craft) nature in the Russia of the kind which the Milyukovs are building in common with the Purishkeviches, or should the workers themselves, in their own way, build a new Russia entirely without the Purishkeviches and in spite of the Milyukovs?

That new Russia will in any case be bourgeois, but there is quite a big difference between the bourgeois (agrarian and non-agrarian) policy of Stolypin and the bourgeois policy of Sun Yat-sen.

The chief feature of the present epoch in Russia is determination of the size of that difference.

In spite of the Milyukovs”, we said. It is this “in spite of” that is “Cadet-eating”. That is why, being unafraid of words, we remain, and shall remain, “Cadet-eatersas a matter of principle, without forgetting for one moment the special tasks of the working class, both against Milyukov and against Sun Yat-sen.

The accusation of “Cadet-eating” is merely a longing (whether conscious or unconscious, makes no difference) to see the workers, in building a new Russia, trail after the Milyukovs and not show the way to our own little Sun Yat-sens in spite of the Milyukovs.

It remains for us to say a few words about a second circumstance, which those who talk about “Cadet-eating” overlook.

It is said: why cannot we develop our views constructively? Why engage in excessive polemics? Those who say that argue, as it were, in the following way: we are not against a special line entirely different from the Cadet line, nor are we against three camps; we are only against the “substitution of polemics for politics”, to use the biting phrase of a friend of the liquidators.

It is easy to answer those who talk like that: in the first place, one cannot develop new views other than through polemics (and Marxist views are new, both as regards the time of their emergence and the extent to which they have spread, in comparison with liberal views). Secondly, the arena in which Nevskaya Zvezda and Pravda are operating, is an arena of purely theoretical Marxist propaganda. It would be wrong to regard this arena as something more: it is only a theoretical ABC, a theoretical first step, an indication of the direction of the work, but not yet the work itself.

In this arena, Marxists cannot present their practical conclusions in a constructive” form, for “reasons beyond our control”. It would therefore be a liquidationist error to   exaggerate the importance of this arena. The most that can be done here is to indicate the direction, and that only in the form of a criticism of the Cadets.

Novoye Vremya and Zemshchina[5] in teasing the Cadets, draw a picture of the Cadets being eaten, and that is all. Rech, for obvious reasons, pretends to accept this “interpretation”. The Korobkas and Kuskovas make the same pretence—some from sheer stupidity, and others from sheer “pro-Cadet flunkeyism”.

But every politically literate person sees very well that Marxist “Cadet-eating”, on absolutely every point of its criticism of the Cadets, indicates the direction of a different “opposition”, if I may use this unsuitable term.

When “eating” a Cadet because of Karaulov’s “pious” speeches, a Marxist is not in a position to develop his point of view constructively. But any literate person understands that democracy cannot remain true to the name if it is pious.

When “eating” a Cadet because of Gredeskul’s speeches, a Marxist is not in a position to develop his point of view constructively. But any literate person realises that democracy cannot remain true to the name if it shares Gredeskul’s views.

When a Marxist—but we should never finish if we under took to list in this manner all the questions and points of our “Cadet-eating”. The two examples are enough to make our thesis on the second circumstance perfectly clear: accusations of Cadet-eating are a form of expressing the philistine, harmful, bad prejudice that a certain arena is an adequate arena.

We shall remain “Cadet-eaters”, incidentally with the very aim of combating that harmful prejudice.


[1] See pp. 254–55 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] See pp. 124–26 of this volume.—Ed.

[3] Rech objects to this, saying: if that is so, why do the Rights sympathetically quote Pravda against Rech? Rech makes an overstatement here: if the Rights were to give Pravda more freedom than to Rech, it would be a forcible argument against the Social-Democrats. But everyone knows that the reverse is the case. Our press has a hundred times less freedom than Rech; it is a thousand times less firmly established and enjoys 10,000 times less “constitutional” protection. Any literate person realises that Rossiya and Novoye Vremya are teasing Rech with Pravda and that, moreover, they are strangling Pravda while merely grumbling at or chiding Rech. These are two entirely different things. —Lenin

[4] Oblomov—the chief character in Ivan Goncharov’s novel of that name. He was a personification of routine, stagnation and inertia.

[5] Zemshchhina (Land Affairs)—a Black-Hundred daily news a or, the organ of the Right-wing members of the Duma, published in St. Petersburg from 1909 to 1917.

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