Nevskaya Zvezda Nos. 24 and 25, September 2 and 9, 1912.
Signed: V. I..
Published according to the text in Nevskaya Zvezda.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, , Moscow, Volume 18, pages 312-322.
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
That ill-famed publication, Vekhi, which was a tremendous success in liberal-bourgeois society, a society thoroughly imbued with renegade tendencies, was not adequately countered, nor appraised deeply enough, in the democratic camp.
This was partly due to the fact that the success of Vekhi occurred at a time of almost complete suppression of the “open” democratic press.
Now Mr. Shchepetev comes forward in Russkaya Mysl (August) with a refurbished edition of Vekhi ideas. This is perfectly natural on the part of a Vekhi organ edited by Mr. P. B. Struve, leader of the renegades. But it will be just as natural for the democrats, particularly the worker democrats, to make up now for at least a little of what they owe the Vekhi people.
Mr. Shchepetev’s utterances take the form of a modest “Letter from France”—about the Russians in Paris. But behind this modest form there is actually a very definite “discussion” of the Russian revolution of 1905 and the Russian democracy.
“That disturbing [Oh! Disturbing to whom, esteemed liberal?], troubled and thoroughly confused year 1905 is fresh in everyone’s memory.\dots”
“Troubled and thoroughly confused”! What dirt and dregs a person must have in his soul to he able to write like that! The German opponents of the revolution of 1848 called that year the “crazy” year. The same idea, or rather the same dull, base fright, is expressed by the Russian Cadet writing in Russkaya Mysl.
We shall counter him only with a few facts, the most objective and most “unpretentious” ones. That year wages were rising as they had never done before. Land rent was dropping. All forms of association of workers, including even domestic servants, were making unprecedented progress. Millions of inexpensive publications on political subjects were being read by the people, the masses, the crowd, the “lower ranks”, as avidly as no one had ever read in Russia until then.
Nekrasov exclaimed, in times long past:
Ah, will there ever be a time
(Come soon, come soon, 0 longed-for day!)
When people will not buy the books
Of Blücher or some silly lord,
But Gogol and Belinsky’s works
From market stalls bring
The “time” longed for by one of the old Russian democrats came. Merchants stopped dealing in oats and engaged in more profitable business—the sale of inexpensive democratic pamphlets. Democratic books became goods for the market. The ideas of Belinsky and Gogol—which endeared these authors to Nekrasov, as indeed to any decent person in Russia—ran through the whole of that new market literature.
How “troublesome”! cried the liberal pig, which deems itself educated, but in fact is dirty, repulsive, overfat and smug, when in actual fact it saw the “people” bringing home from the market—Belinsky’s letter to Gogol.
And, strictly speaking, it is, after all, a letter from an “intellectual”, announced Vekhi, to thunderous applause from Rozanov of Novoye Vremya and from Anthony, Bishop of Volhynia.
What a disgraceful sight! a democrat from among the best Narodniks will say. What an instructive sight! we will add. How it sobers up those who took a sentimental view of democratic issues, how it steels all the living and strong democratic elements, mercilessly sweeping aside the rotten illusions of the Oblomov-minded!
It is very useful for anyone who has ever been enchanted with liberalism to be disenchanted with it. And he who wishes to recall the early history of Russian liberalism will certainly see in the liberal Kavelin’s attitude towards the democrat Chernyshevsky the exact prototype of the attitude adopted by the Cadet Party of the liberal bourgeoisie towards the Russian democratic movement of the masses. The liberal bourgeoisie in Russia has “found itself”, or rather its tail. Is it not time the democrats in Russia found their head?
It is particularly intolerable to see individuals like Shchepetev, Struve, Gredeskul, Izgoyev and the rest of the Cadet fraternity clutching at the coat-tails of Nekrasov, Shchedrin and others. Nekrasov, who was weak as a person, wavered between Chernyshevsky and the liberals, but all his sympathy went to Chernyshevsky. Out of the very same personal weakness, Nekrasov occasionally sounded the false note of liberal servility, but he himself bitterly deplored his “falsity” and repented of it in public:
I never sold my lyre, although at times,
When pressed by unrelenting fate,
False notes would sound among my rhymes.
“False notes” is what Nekrasov himself called the liberal servility he was occasionally guilty of. As for Shchedrin, he mocked mercilessly at the liberals, whom he branded for ever by the formula “conformably to villainy”.
How outdated this formula is as applied to Shchepetev, Gredeskul and the other Vekhi people! The point now is by no means that these gentlemen must conform to villainy. Not by a long shot! They have created their own theory of villainy” on their own initiative and in their own fashion, proceeding from Neo-Kantianism and other fashionable “European” theories.
“The thoroughly confused year 1905,” writes Mr. Shchepetev. “Everything was mixed up and tangled in the general confusion and muddle.”
On this point, too, we can raise only a few theoretical objections. We believe that historical events should be judged by the movements of the masses and of classes as a whole, not by the moods of individuals or small groups.
The overwhelming majority of Russia’s population consists of peasants and workers. What indication is there of a “general confusion and muddle” among this majority of the population? Quite On the contrary, the objective facts testify irrefutably that it was among the mass of the population that a sorting out unprecedented in breadth and effectiveness was going on, a sorting out which for ever did away with “confusion and muddle”.
Until then, the elements of patriarchal oppression and those of democracy had really been “confused and mixed tip” among the “common people”, making up a “general muddle”. Evidence of this is to be found in such objective facts as that Zubatovism and the “Gaponiad” proved possible.
It was the year 1905 that for ever put an end to that “muddle”. No previous epoch in Russian history had untangled with such extreme clarity, by deeds not by words, relations tangled by age-long stagnation and age-old survivals of serfdom. In no other epoch had so distinctly and “efficiently” the classes become demarcated, the attitude of the mass of the population defined, and the theories and programmes of the “intellectuals” tested by the actions of millions.
How was it, then, that indisputable historical facts could be so greatly distorted in the mind of the educated and liberal writer of Russkaya Mysl? The explanation is very simple: this Vekhi spokesman seeks to impose his subjective sentiments on the whole people. He himself and his entire group—the liberal-bourgeois intelligentsia—found them selves at that tint in a particularly “muddled”, “thoroughly confused”, position. And the liberal shifts his discontent—a natural result of this muddle and of the fact that the masses had exposed the utter worthlessness of liberalism—to the masses, thus laying his own fault at someone else’s door.
Indeed, was not the liberals’ position a muddled one in June 1905? Or after August 6, when they called for participation in the Bulygin Duma but the people went in fact past and beyond the Duma? Or in October 1905, when the liberals had to “trail along behind” and call the strike “glorious” although only the day before they had fought against it? Or in November 1905, when the pitiful impotence of liberalism fully came to light, being demonstrated by so striking a fact as Struve’s visit to Witte?
If the Vekhist Shchepetev cares to read the Vekhist Izgoyev’s little book about Stolypin, he will see that Izgoyev had to admit that “muddle” in the Cadets’ position “between two fires” in the First and Second Dumas. And this “muddle” and impotence of liberalism were an inevitable development, for the liberals had no mass support either among the bourgeoisie above or among the peasantry below.
Mr. Shchepetev closes his argument on the history of the Russian revolution with the following gem:
“However, all that muddle was very short-lived. The upper ranks freed themselves little by little from the almost panic terror that had gripped them and, having arrived at the fairly simple conclusion that a good company of soldiers was more effective than all revolutionary verbiage, equipped ‘punitive expeditions’ and set rapid-firing justice into motion. The results exceeded all expectations. In a matter of two or three years, the revolution was destroyed and eradicated to such an extent that certain security institutions were compelled to stage it in some places.\dots”
While we could provide at least some theoretical commentary for the author’s previous discourses, now we have not even this possibility. We must confine ourselves to fastening this glorious discourse to the pillory in as high a position as possible, so that it can be seen for as long a time and from as far off as possible.
However, we can also ask the reader: is it surprising that the Octobrist Golos Moskvy, as well as the nationalist, Judas-like Novoye Vremya, quoted Shchepetev with the greatest delight? In fact, what is the difference between the “historical” appraisal given by the “Constitutional Democratic” magazine and that given by the above-mentioned two publications?
Mr. Shchepetev devotes most space to sketches of life in exile. To find an analogy of these sketches, one would have to dig up Russky Vestnik of Katkov’s day and take from it novels portraying high-minded Marshals of the Nobility, good-natured and contented muzhiks, and disgruntled brutes, scoundrels and monsters called revolutionaries.
Mr. Shchepetev has observed Paris (assuming that he has) with the eyes of a philistine embittered against the democratic movement, who could see nothing but “unrest” in the appearance in Russia of the first democratic pamphlets for the masses.
It is known that everyone sees abroad what he chooses to. Or, in other words, everyone sees in new conditions his own sell. A member of the Black Hundreds sees abroad splendid landlords, generals and diplomats. A secret police agent sees there the noblest policemen. A liberal Russian renegade sees in Paris well-meaning concierges and “efficient” shopkeepers who teach the Russian revolutionary that among them “humanitarian and altruistic sentiments had too much suppressed personal requirements, often to the detriment of the general progress and cultural advancement of the whole of our country”.
A lackey in spirit is naturally keen above all else on the gossip and petty scandals prevailing in the servants’ room. It goes without saying that a shopkeeper or a lackey-minded concierge takes no notice of the ideological issues discussed at Paris meetings and in the Paris Russian-language press. How can he see, indeed, that this press raised, as early as 1908, for example, the very same questions concerning the social nature of the June Third regime, the class roots of the new trends among the democrats, and so on, as found their way much later, and in much narrower and more distorted (and curtailed) form, into the press “protected” by reinforced security measures?
Shopkeepers and lackeys, however “intellectual” the garb in which people with such a mentality array themselves, cannot notice and grasp these questions. If a particular lackey is called a “publicist” contributing to a liberal magazine, he, that “publicist”, will pass over in complete silence the great ideological questions which are posed openly and clearly nowhere but in Paris. On the other hand, this “publicist” will tell you in detail all that is well known in the servants’ rooms.
He, this noble Cadet, will tell you in the magazine of the most noble Mr. Struve, that a hapless emigrant-prostitute was evicted from “the flat of a very well-known woman revolutionary in Paris”, “not without help from the police”; that the “unemployed” again made a row at a charity ball; that a copyist in a house familiar to Mr. Shchepetev “had rather a considerable sum of money advanced to him and then began to absent himself”; that the exiles “rise at noon and go to bed after I or 2 a.m., and there are visitors and noise and arguments and disorder all day long”.
All this the lackey magazine of the Cadet Mr. Struve will tell you in detail and with illustrations, with gusto and spiced with pepper—just as well as Menshikov and Rozanov of Novoye Vremya do it.
“Give me money or I’ll punch you on the jaw—this is the unambiguously hostile form which the relations between the upper and lower ranks of the exiles have taken. True, this formula has not be come widespread, and ‘the extreme trend among the lower ranks’ has become represented [this is how the educated Cadet writes in Mr. Struve’s magazine!] by a mere couple of dozens of very doubtful elements that are perhaps even guided by a skilful hand from outside.”
Pause at this statement, reader, and think of the difference between an ordinary lackey and a lackey-minded publicist. Ordinary lackeys—meaning the bulk, of course, which does not include those politically-conscious elements that have already adopted a class point of view arid are seeking a way out of their lackey’s position—are unsophisticated, uneducated, and often illiterate and ignorant; it is pardon able for them to have a naive passion for relating whatever reaches them more easily than anything else, and is closest and clearest to them. Lackey-minded publicists, on the other hand, are “educated” persons who are well received in all the finest drawing-rooms. They are aware that the number of common blackmailers among the exiles is very insignificant (“a couple of dozens” for thousands of exiles). They even realise that these blackmailers “are perhaps guided” by a “skilful hand”—from the tea-room of the Union of the Russian People.
And because he realises all this, the lackey-minded publicist operates as befits the “educated”. He certainly knows how to cover up his tracks and make the most of his goods! He is not a venal hack of the Black Hundreds—nothing of the kind. He “himself” has even pointed out that perhaps someone is guiding the dozen or two of blackmailers, but at the same time it is precisely and solely those blackmailers rows and the absenteeism of copyists that he tells about!
The Novoye Vremya school for “writers” of Russkaya Mysl has not gone to waste. Suvorin of Novoye Vremya boasted that he had never received any subsidies—he merely “knew himself” how to hit the right tone.
Russkaya Mysl receives no subsidies—-God forfend! It merely “knows itself” how to hit the right tone, a tone pleasing to the ear of the Novoye Vremya people and Guchkov’s “stalwarts”.
Yes, there is much that is painful in the life of the exiles. It is exiles, and they alone, who in the years of social stag nation and lull raised major questions of principle concerning all Russian democrats. There is more poverty and want among them than elsewhere. The proportion of suicides is particularly great among them, and the proportion of those among them whose whole being is one bundle of sick nerves is incredibly, monstrously great. Indeed, how could things be different with tormented people?
Different people will take interest in different things when they find themselves among exiles. Some of them will be interested in the open discussion of major political questions of principle. Others will be interested in stories about a row at a ball, about an unscrupulous copyist, or about the distaste which concierges and shopkeepers have for the exiles’ way of life. Everyone to his taste.
Nevertheless, when you experience all the hardships of a tormented, drab, morbidly nervous life in exile and think of the life of the Shchepetevs, Struves, Golovins, Izgoyevs and Co., you cannot help saying: what an immense happiness not to belong to this society of “respectable people”, to the society where these individuals are received and where people shake hands with them!
Probably, rows do not occur in this “respectable society”. Prostitutes do not find themselves in the position of all but room-mates of these gentlemen. Oh, no. They stay in other quarters.
The unemployed raise no rows at dances arranged by these people. For those dances are perfectly decorous. They keep these things apart: the prostitutes (from among the unemployed) live in one flat, while the dances are held in another. And if they take on a copyist, they never allow any depravity, such as letting the copyist take his pay in advance and then dare to absent himself.
Rows over money are out of the question with them. Near them are no starving, tormented, unnerved people, ready to commit suicide. And if “the millions fraternise—today with “science” in the persons of Messrs. Struve and Co., tomorrow with the title of deputy in the persons of Messrs. Golovin and Co., and the day after with the titles of deputy and lawyer in the persons of Messrs. Maklakov and Co.—where do rows come in here?
Those are all noble acts. If the writings of the Struves, Gredeskuls, Shchepetevs and Co. against the democrats give pleasure to the Ryabushinskys, etc., what is wrong with that? After all, Struve receives no subsidies—he “himself” hits the right tone! No one can say that Russkaya Mysl is a kept woman of the Ryabushinskys. It will occur to no one to compare the pleasure which the Ryabushinskys derive from certain “publicists” with the pleasure which serf girls gave the landlords in the old days by scratching their heels for them.
Indeed, what blame attaches to Mr. Struve or Mr. Gredeskul or Shchepetev, etc., because their writings and speeches, which express their own convictions, are a sort of heel-scratching for the Russian merchants and landlords, who are embittered against the revolution?
What is so shocking about the fact that Mr. Golovin, an ex-deputy, has got himself a profitable concession? After all, he has relinquished the title of deputy!! That means that when he was a deputy there was no concession as yet—it was only just in the making. And when he obtained a con cession, he ceased to be a deputy. Is it not clear that there is no dirty business here?
Is it not obvious that only slanderers can point a finger at Maklakov? Did he not defend Taglyev—as he himself stated in a letter published in Rech—“according to his convictions”? There can be no doubt whatever that no Paris concierge or shopkeeper will find anything—anything at all—reprehensible, awkward or shocking in the way of life or in the actions of all these respectable Cadet people.
Mr. Shchepetev’s general statement of principle is worth reproducing in full:
“Hitherto, and above all in the circles taking part in the revolution, humanitarian and altruistic sentiments have suppressed personal requirements to an excessive degree, often to the detriment of the general progress and cultural advancement of the whole of our country. Too often the desire for the ‘public good’ and for the ‘welfare of the whole people’ made people forget about themselves, about their personal needs and requirements, so much so that the social sentiments and aspirations themselves could not be translated into reality in the form of positive [!!], creative, entirely conscious work, and fatally led to passive forms of self-sacrifice. Indeed, not only in this particular sphere, but also in the sphere of the most ordinary relations, the requirements of the individual were constantly sup pressed in every manner—by a ‘guilty conscience’ which often swelled this thirst for heroism and self-sacrifice to hypertrophic proportions, on the one hand, and by an inadequate appraisal of life itself due to the low standard of our culture, on the other hand The result is a constant split personality, a constant sense of the wrongness and even ‘sinfulness’ of one’s life, a constant desire to sacrifice oneself, to come to the aid of the propertyless and disinherited, and, finally, to go into ‘the camp of the perishing’—a fact which has found so full and vivid an expression in our literature.
“Nothing of the kind is met with in the views and moral principles of the French people.”
This is a commentary on Mr. Gredeskul’s political and programmatic statements which Rech published without a single reservation and which Pravda (No. 85) recalled when Rech chose to forget them.
This is a continuation and repetition of Vekhi. Once again we can and must see from the example of this discourse that Vekhi is merely making a show of fighting against the “intelligentsia” and that it is in fact fighting against democracy, which it completely renounces.
It is particularly necessary to stress the unity of Vekhi, Gredeskul and Rech today, during the elections, when the Cadets, playing at democracy, are doing their utmost to obscure and side-track all the truly important and vital political questions of principle. One of the urgent practical tasks facing the democrats is to raise these questions at election meetings, to explain to as large an audience as possible the meaning and significance of the talk of the Shchepetevs and all the Vekhists, and to expose the hypocrisy of Rech and the Milyukovs when they try to disclaim responsibility for Russkaya Mysl, although those who write for it are Cadet Party members.
The “arguments” with the Vekhists, the “polemics” of the Gredeskuls, Milyukovs and other such gentlemen against them, are no more than eyewash, nothing but a hypocritical disguise for the deep fundamental solidarity between the entire Cadet Party and Vekhi. Indeed, how can anyone “argue” against the basic propositions of the passage quoted above? How can he remain in the same party with people who hold such views, without bearing full responsibility for this advocacy of an emphatic repudiation of the elementary principles of all democracy?
The issue is obscured by those who are willing to present it à la Vekhi, in terms of contrasting “individualism” with “altruism”, and so on. The political meaning of these phrases could not be clearer—they are a volte-face against democracy, a volte-face in favour of counter-revolutionary liberalism.
We must realise that this volte-face is no accident, but a result of the class position of the bourgeoisie. And we must draw from this the necessary political conclusions as regards the clear demarcation of democracy from liberalism. Unless we are aware of these realities, and unless we bring them home to the mass of the population, there can be no question of any real step forward.
 The objection will probably be raised that Gredeskul, as well as Milyukov and Co., argued with Vekhi. So they did, but they remained Vekhists for all that. See, inter alia, Pravda No. 85. —Lenin
 See Mr. Shchepetev’s article, p. 139 (Russkaya Mysl No. 8, 1912). —Lenin
 Ibid., p. 153. —Lenin
 See present edition, Vol. 15, pp. 266–79.—Ed.
 Russkaya Mysl (Russian Thought)—a liberal bourgeois monthly published in Moscow from 1880 to the middle of 1918. After the revolution of 1905 it became the organ of the Right wing of the Cadet Party. At that time Lenin called it Chernosotennaya Mysl (Black-Hundred Thought).
 Lenin is quoting from Nekrasov’s poem, Who Can Be Happy in Russia?
The quatrain quoted in the text further on is taken from Nekrasov’s “To the Unknown Friend Who has Sent Me the Poem ‘It Cannot Be’\thinspace”.
 This refers to the “Letter to Gogol”, dated July 3, 1847, in which V. G. Belinsky most vividly expressed his revolutionary-democratic ideas. Lenin described the “Letter” as “one of the finest productions of the illegal, democratic press”
 Lenin borrowed the phrase “conformably to villainy” from “The Liberal”, a satirical fairy-tale by M. Saltykov-Shchedrin.
 Zubatovism—the policy of “police socialism”, so named after Colonel Zubatov, chief of the Moscow Secret Police, on whose initiative legal workers’ organisations were formed in 1901–03 to divert the workers from the political struggle against the autocracy. Zubatov’s activity in this field was supported by V.K. Plehve, Minister of the Interior. The Zubatovists sought to direct the working-class movement into the narrow channel of purely economic demands, and suggested to the workers that the government was willing to meet those demands. The first Zubatovist organisation—the Society for Mutual Assistance of Mechanical Industry Workers—was set up in Moscow in May 1901. Similar organisations were founded in Minsk, Odessa, Vilna, Kiev and other cities.
The revolutionary Social-Democrats, in exposing the reactionary character of Zubatovism, used legal workers’ organisations to draw large sections of the working class into the struggle against the autocracy. The growing revolutionary movement in 1903 compelled the tsarist government to abolish the Zubatovist organisations.
 Judas Golovlyov—a sanctimonious, hypocritical, serf-owning land lord portrayed in M. Saltykov-Shchedrin’s The Golovlyov Family.
 Russky Vestnik (The Russian Herald)—a political and literary periodical published between 1856 and 1906. From 1856 to 1887 it was issued in Moscow, with M. N. Katkov as its editor and publisher. Originally it had a liberal trend but in the 1860s it became an organ of feudal reaction. After Katkov’s death it was issued in St. Petersburg from 1888 to 1896, in Moscow from 1896 to 1902, and again in St. Petersburg from 1902 to 1906.
 See Note 87.