V. I.   Lenin

Some Conclusions to be Drawn from the Pre-Election Mobilisation

Published: Nevskaya Zvezda No. 8, May 22, 1912. Signed: B. G.. Published according to the text in Nevskaya Zvezda.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 78-82.
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

Almost all the political forces taking part in the elections to the Duma are by now finally organised. At any rate, the main party alignments have taken such definite shape that there can be no question of any serious and material changes.

The government began the election campaign long ago. The Rights, the nationalists, and the Octobrists are “at work” with the obvious assistance of the authorities. Rech recently published, and many newspapers have reprinted, the circular sent by the governors, to the police chiefs about the adoption of “measures” to prevent “Left” candidates from being elected as delegates (particularly from the peasants) or electors. This circular lifts the veil somewhat from the “election” machinery of the Ministry of the Interior. Everything possible—and impossible—will undoubtedly be done in this quarter against the opposition. Not for nothing did Premier Kokovtsov, in his speech to the Moscow merchants, lay so much stress on the perniciousness of “opposition for the sake of opposition”.

But while there can be no doubt about the zeal of the government and the police in the elections, it is just as undoubted that a widespread “leftward” swing has taken, or is taking, place in the sentiments of the voters. No stratagems of the government can alter this fact. On the contrary, all that stratagems and “measures” can accomplish is to increase discontent. And it is easy to understand that while this discontent among the big bourgeoisie is expressed by Shubinsky’s “opposition” speech, by Ryabushinsky’s “cautious” allusion to the desirability of “cultured methods of administration”, or by caustic digs at the Ministry on the part of the Cadet   Rech, there is much keener and more serious discontent in the large circle of the “small people” who are dependent on the Ryabushinskys, Golovins and others.

What are the political alignments that have taken definite shape in the camp of the opposition, which gives political expression to this discontent? One group that has taken shape is the “responsible”, liberal-monarchist opposition of the Cadets and the Progressists. The bloc of these two parties clearly denotes that the Cadets are much more “to the right” than they seem to be.

Another group that has taken shape is that of the working-class democracy, which has undertaken the task, not of “supporting” the Cadet-Progressist opposition, but of utilising the latter’s conflicts with the Rights (including the nationalists and the Octobrists) to enlighten and organise the democratic forces. Lastly, the group of the bourgeois democracy has also taken shape: at the conference of the Trudoviks it declared in favour of agreements “in the first place, with the Social-Democrats”, but it did not put forward any definite slogan calling for a fight against the counter revolutionary liberalism of the Cadets, which means that in practice it is wavering between the two.

What are the conclusions to be drawn from this pre-election “political mobilisation” of the parties? The first and principal conclusion, which the working-class democrats drew long ago, is that there are three, not two, camps engaged in the contest. The liberals are eager to make it appear that the contest is really between two camps; and the liquidators, as has been shown on many occasions, are constantly slipping into an acceptance of the same view. “For or against a constitution?” is how the Cadets formulate the difference between the two camps. Actually, however, this formulation defines nothing at all, because the Octobrists, too, avow that they are constitutionalists, and indeed, generally speaking, it should be a question not of what can or cannot be called a constitution, but of the exact content of certain liberal or democratic demands.

It is the content of the demands, the real distinctions between the class tendencies, that differentiates the three camps: the Right, or government, camp; the camp of the liberal, or liberal-monarchist, bourgeoisie, which takes a   counter-revolutionary stand; and the democratic camp. Furthermore, it is not so much a question of “chances” under the existing electoral system, for the issue goes much deeper—it concerns the whole character of political propaganda during the elections, the whole ideological and political content of the election campaign.

In view of this state of affairs, the “strategy” of the liberals is daily directed towards taking the leadership of the “whole” opposition movement into their hands. The liberal Zaprosy Zhizni blurted out the “secret” of this strategy, so carefully kept by Rech. “The Progressists,” writes Mr. R. B.[1] in Zaprosy Zhizni No. 13, “have opened their campaign by a promising move [!]—they formed the so-called ‘non-partisan Progressist bloc’, which proved from the first to have a strong appeal for the political opposition circles to the right of the Cadets.” On the other hand, “the election platform of the Trudovik group, despite its vagueness—in part due to it, perhaps—meets the requirements of large sections of the democratic intelligentsia”. “Under certain conditions, the Trudovik group to the left of the Cadets could perform a role similar to that undertaken by the Progressist group to the right of the Cadets. The opposition front would then be made up of mobile and wavering, but flexible extreme flanks, and an immobile but persistent centre, which strategically has its advantage in the political struggle as well.”

What is in the thoughts of the Milyukovs and Shingaryovs is on R. B.’s tongue! It is precisely two “flexible” flanks that the Cadets need: the Progressists for netting the bourgeois June Third voter, and the “vague” democrats for netting the democratic-minded public. Indeed, this “strategy” follows from the very nature of the Cadet Party. It is the party of the counter-revolutionary liberals, which by fraudulent means has won the support of certain democratic strata, such as a section of the shop-assistants, office clerks, etc. What such a party needs is exactly the “non-partisan Progressist” as its real class bulwark, and the vague democrat as an attractive sales ticket.

The landlord Yefremov and the millionaire Ryabushinsky may be described as typical Progressists. The typical vague democrat is represented by the Trudovik in the Narodnik   camp and the liquidator in the Marxist camp. Take the whole history of the Cadet Party, and you will find that its method has always been democracy in words, and liberalism “of the Yefremov brand and acceptable to Ryabushinsky” in deeds. From the defeat of the plan for local land committees in 1906 to the vote for the budget in the Third Duma, or to Milyukov’s[2] “London” slogans, etc., we see this very nature of the Cadet Party and its sham-democratic attire.

Mr. R. B. of Zaprosy Zhizni is so very clumsy that he inadvertently told the truth, which had been carefully kept from the democrats and muddled by the liberals. The programme of the Progressists, he confesses, “puts the issue on a firm and realistic basis! And yet that programme has nothing except general phrases in a purely Octobrist style (as, for instance, “the complete realisation of the Manifesto of October 17”[3]). What is described as a firm and realistic basis is the basis of a bourgeois liberalism so moderate, so mild and impotent, that it would be simply ridiculous to pin any hopes on it. Those who were “Peaceful Renovators”[4] in 1907, those who in the Third Duma steered a middle course between the Cadets and the Octobrists, are described as a firm and realistic basis!

The millionaire Ryabushinsky is a Progressist. Utro Rossii[5] is the mouthpiece of this and similar Progressists. And none other than Rech, the paper of the Cadets, who have formed a bloc with the Progressists, wrote: “Utro Rossii, organ of the Moscow industrialists, is gratified [by Kokovtsov’s speech] more than anyone else.... It echoes Krestovnikov: ‘Commercial and industrial Moscow can feel satisfied.’” And Rech added for its own part: “As far as Golos Moskvy and Utro Rossii are concerned, they are willing not to pursue any line, and feel perfectly satisfied.”

The question arises: where is the evidence that Yefremov or other Progressists have a “line”? There is no such evidence. For democrats to support this sort of progressism, whether it is called progressism or Cadetism, would mean only surrendering their position. But using the conflicts between the bourgeoisie and the landlords, between the liberals and the Rights, is another matter. That is the only way in which a democrat can formulate his task.

To fulfil this task, to politically enlighten and organise   the very wide masses that are economically dependent on the Yefremovs and Ryabushinskys, one has to be well aware of the counter-revolutionary nature of Cadet and Progressist liberalism. The lack of this awareness is the chief defect of both the Trudoviks and the liquidators. The Trudoviks say nothing at all about the class characteristics of liberalism. The liquidators utter phrases about “wresting the Duma from the hands of the reactionaries”, about the Cadets and Progressists coming closer to power, and about the historically progressive work they are doing (see Martov and Dan). Taken as a whole, it adds up to that very role of a Cadet “flank” which pleases R. B. so much.

To be sure, these are not the subjective wishes of the Trudoviks and the liquidators and, indeed, it is not a question of their subjective plans, but of the objective alignment of the social forces. And in spite of all the adherents of the idea of two camps, in spite of the malicious shouts about disorganisation in the workers’ democratic movement (see the same article by Mr. R. B.), this alignment clearly shows us that a third camp has formed. Its line is clearly presented and is known to all. The anti-liquidationist workers are pursuing this line, rallying all the democrats in the struggle both against the Rights and against the liberals. Without entertaining any illusions about the impotent liberalism of the Cadets, who are grovelling before the reaction in all fundamental questions, the workers are using clashes between that liberalism and the reaction to promote their own cause, their own class organisation, their own democracy, which is now quietly ripening in the broad mass of the people enslaved by the Yefremovs and Ryabushinskys.

Thanks to the anti-liquidationist tactics of the workers, the fight between the Rights and the “responsible” opposition must, and will, serve to develop the political consciousness and independent organisation of an “opposition” which lays no claim to the scarcely honourable title of “responsible”.


[1] R. B.—R. M. Blank, a Cadet publicist.

[2] See Note 46.

[3] This refers to the tsar’s Manifesto of October 17, 1905, published at the height of the All-Russia October political strike. The Manifesto promised “civil liberties” and a “legislative” Duma. It was a political stratagem of the autocracy designed to gain time, split the revolutionary forces, foil the strike and suppress the revolution. It was a concession wrested from the tsarist regime by the revolution, but that concession by no means decided the fate of the revolution, as the liberals and Mensheviks claimed. The Bolsheviks exposed the real meaning of the Manifesto. On October 18 (31), 1905, the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. issued its appeal “To the Russian People” revealing the spurious nature of the Manifesto and calling for a continued struggle. “We still need the strike,” said the appeal, “to show our enemies that they cannot appease us with a mere slip of paper, and that we want genuine rights and genuine strength.” (Leaflets of the Bolshevik Organisations During the First Russian Revolution of 1905-1907. Part I, Moscow, 1956, p. 185, Russ. ed).

[4] This refers to the Party of Peaceful Renovation, a constitutional-monarchist organisation of the big bourgeoisie and the landlords. It took final shape in 1906, following the dissolution of the First Duma. It grouped the “Left” Octobrists and Right Cadets. Among its leaders were P. A. Heyden, N. P. Lvov, P. P. Ryabushinsky, M. A. Stakhovich, Y. N. and G. N. Trubetskoi, and D. N. Shipov.

The Peaceful Renovators’ programme was close to the Octobrist programme. It defended the interests of the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie and the landlords who conducted their farming on capitalist lines. Lenin called the Party of Peaceful Renovation a “party of peaceful plunder”. In the Third Duma this party merged with the Party of Democratic Reform into the Progressist group.

[5] Utro Rossii (Morning of Russia)—a daily newspaper published in Moscow from September 1907 to April 1918 (with a break in 1908). Although it called itself a “non-partisan democratic publication”, it reflected the interests of the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie. It was a Progressist mouthpiece subsidised by Ryabushinsky’s bank. It was closed down early in April 1918 for slanderous statements against Soviet rule. From the middle of April to July 1918 it was published under the title of Zarya Rossii (Dawn of Russia).

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