V. I.   Lenin

The National-Liberals

Published: Pravda No. 200, December 22, 1912. Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 441-443.
Translated: Stepan Apresyan
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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Recent years have seen a definite differentiation taking place among the Russian liberals. The “genuine” bourgeoisie has been setting itself apart from the general liberal camp. Liberal capital is forming its own special party, which is to incorporate (and is incorporating) many bourgeois elements which in the past made common cause with the Octobrists and which, on the other hand, is being joined by the most moderate, big-bourgeois, “respectable” elements of the Cadet Party.

The “Progressist” group in the Third and Fourth Dumas, as well as the one in the Council of State are on the verge of becoming the official party representatives of this national-liberal bourgeoisie in the parliamentary arena. Indeed, the recent congress of the “Progressists” virtually out lined the national-liberal programme which Russkaya Molva[1] is advocating.

What do the so-called “Progressists” want? Why do we call them national-liberals?

They do not want full and undivided rule of the land lords and the bureaucrats. They seek—and they say so plainly—a moderate constitution with narrowly-restricted rights based on a bicameral system and an anti-democratic suffrage. They want a “strong authority” that would pursue the “patriotic” policy of conquering with sword and fire new markets for “national industry”. They want the bureaucrats to heed them as much as they heed the Purishkeviches. And then they would be willing to forget their “old accounts” with the reactionaries and work hand in glove with them to establish a “great” capitalist Russia.

What separates these people from the Octobrist Party is that the landlords constitute too strong an element in   that party and that it is tractable to the point of impotence. From the Cadet Party they are separated by their distaste for the Cadets’ demagogical flirting with the democrats. The Cadets’ hypocritical talk about universal suffrage and compulsory alienation of the land (even with compensation) seems to these “respectable” constitutionalists quite unnecessary and impermissible.

The national-liberals go straight to the point: one must not be afraid of accusations of “pandering to the reactionary forces” but must fight openly against “appeals for seizing the landed estates” and against “fomenting hatred of the propertied classes”; as regards “military might”, there should be neither Right nor Left.

We are back in our country.... The Russian army is ... our own army.... The Russian court of justice is not Shemyaka’s[2] but our own.... Russia’s world standing is not a vainglorious whim of the bureaucracy but our own strength and joy” (see the policy statements of Russkaya Molva).

The national-liberals undoubtedly have a certain “future” in Russia. They will be a party of the “genuine” capitalist bourgeoisie, such as we see in Germany. The purely intellectual, liberal elements who have few “roots” will remain with the Cadets. The national-liberals will gain such ideologists as Struve, Maklakov, Protopopov, Kovalevsky and others, who have long had one foot in the reactionary camp. They will no doubt be joined also by the exceedingly moderate “Shipovite” Zemstvo-landlord elements, who likewise favour a constitution with narrowly-restricted rights, a “constitution” for the rich. (It is not for nothing that Mr. Struve has recently recalled Mr. Shipov in such kind terms.)

The “Progressists’” dreams of a “strong authority” pursuing a liberal policy cannot, of course, materialise in the near future. And so the Khvostovs and Purishkeviches are still sitting pretty. It may be that the national liberal party will not take final shape just yet and that their news paper will cease to exist as Slovo,[3] a paper which on the whole had set itself the same aims, did three years ago. (In the Duma, however, the “Progressists” have become relatively stronger than the Cadets.) In any case, the coming   into the open of the national-liberal bourgeoisie indicates a considerable maturing of the class antagonisms in Russia.

The workers must counter the self-determination of the capitalist bourgeoisie by putting ten times greater energy into their own organisation and their own self-determination as a class.


[1] Russkaya Molva (Russian News)—a daily newspaper published by the Progressist Party in St. Petersburg from December 9 (22), 1912, to August 20 (September 2), 1913.

[2] Shemyaka’s trial—an unjust trial (from the title of and old Russian folk story).

[3] Slovo (The Word)—a daily newspaper published in St. Petersburg from 1904 to 1909. From November 1905 to July 1906 it was an organ of the Octobrist Party. Subsequently it became an organ of the constitutional-monarchist Party of Peaceful Renovation.

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