V. I.   Lenin

The Cadets and “The Right of Nations to Self-Determination”

Published: Proletarskaya Pravda No. 4, December 11, 1913. Signed: I.. Published according to the Proletarskaya Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 525-527.
Translated: The Late George Hanna
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

Last summer, Rech, the chief liberal newspaper in Russia, published an article by Mr. Mikhail Mogilyansky on the All-Ukraine Student Congress in Lvov. Rabochaya Pravda at the time pointed out that Mr. Mogilyansky in a manner most reprehensible (for a democrat, or for a man who poses as a democrat) showered abuse on the Ukrainian separatism advocated by Mr. Dontsov,[1] and others. We stated at once that the issue was not whether one agreed or disagreed with Mr. Dontsov, whom many Ukrainian Marxists opposed, we said it was impermissible to hurl such epithets at “separatism” as “delirium” and adventurism. We said that this was a chauvinist approach, and that in criticising any particular plan for secession, a Great-Russian democrat must agitate for freedom to secede, for the right to secede.

As the reader will see, this is a question of principle, of programme, and concerns the duties of democrats in general.

But now, six months later, Mr. Mikhail Mogilyansky again brings this point up in Rech (No. 331) but does not reply to us; he replies to Mr. Dontsov, who sharply attacked Rech in the Lvov newspaper Shlyakhi[2] and incidentally pointed out that “Rech’s chauvinistic thrust was properly branded only in the Russian Social-Democratic press”.

In replying to Mr. Dontsov, Mr. Mogilyansky states three times that “criticism of Mr. Dontsov’s recipes does not imply repudiation of the right of nations to self-determination”.

This statement by a contributor to the liberal Rech is extremely important and we invite our readers to pay particular   attention to it. The more rarely the liberal gentlemen establish and analyse the fundamental and material truths of democracy instead of indulging in common political-oppositional scandal-mongering, the more persistently must we call for a serious appraisal of every case in which they do so.

Does our Constitutional-“Democratic” Party recognise the right of nations to self-determination or not? This is the interesting question that Mr. Mogilyansky inadvertently raises.

He thrice repeats his reservation, but he does not give a straightforward answer to this question! He knows perfectly well that neither the programme of the Constitutional-Democratic Party, nor its daily political sermons (propaganda and agitation) provide a straightforward, precise and clear answer to this question.

It must be said,” writes Mr. Mogilyansky, “that even the ‘right of nations to self-determination’ is not a fetish that must never be criticised: the unhealthy conditions of life of a nation may engender unhealthy tendencies in national self-determination; and to expose the latter does not mean repudiating the right of nations to self-determination.”

This is a beautiful example of a liberal evasion which the Semkovskys repeat in different strains in the columns of the liquidators’ newspaper! Oh, no, Mr. Mogilyansky, no democratic right is a “fetish”, and never must the class content, for example, of any of them be forgotten. All general democratic demands are bourgeois-democratic demands; but only anarchists and opportunists can deduce from this that it is not the business of the proletariat to back these demands in the most consistent manner possible.

The right to self-determination is one thing, of course, and the expediency of self-determination, the secession of a given nation under given circumstances, is another. This is elementary. But does Mr. Mogilyansky, do Russian liberals, does the Constitutional-Democratic Party admit that it is the duty of a democrat to preach to the masses—particularly the Great-Russian masses—the great significance and urgency of this right?

No, no, and no again. That is what Mr. Mogilyansky evades and conceals. That is one of the roots of the nationalism   and chauvinism of the Cadets—not only of Struve, Izgoyev and the other outspoken Cadets, but also of the diplomats of the Cadet Party like Milyukov, and the philistines of that party like.... But their names are not important!

The class-conscious workers of Russia will not forget that in addition to national reactionaries we have in this country national liberals, and that the rudiments of national democracy are springing up (recall Mr. Peshekhonov’s appeal in Russkoye Bogatstvo No. 8, 1906, for “caution” concerning the nationalist prejudices of the Great Russian muzhik).

Advocacy of the right to self-determination is very important in the fight against the abscess of nationalism in all its forms.


[1] See pp. 266–67 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] Shlyakhi (Paths)—nationalist organ of the Ukrainian Students’ Union; it was published in Lvov from April 1913 to March 1914.

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