V. I.   Lenin

Frank Speeches by a Liberal

Published: Pravda No. 125, June 1, 1913. Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 135-136.
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

V. M. Sobolevsky, editor of Russkiye Vedomosti,[1] recently passed away. The liberals honoured him as a “staunch progressive figure”. They spoke and wrote of his personal qualities. They avoided the question of the political trend followed by Russkiye Vedomosti.

There is nothing more convenient for our liberals than that ancient, colourless, general haziness—“oppositionism”, “progressism”. What is hidden behind those words, what sort of oppositional activity was displayed by an individual, which class he served, are things they prefer not to discuss. These things are distasteful to liberals.

Democracy, however, should try to establish the truth. Honour V. M. Sobolevsky as a progressive, that is your right. But if you really want to teach politics to the people do not forget the trend followed by Russ/aye Vedomosti, that provides a unique combination of Right Cadetism and Narodnik overtones.

Mr. L. Panteleyev, who published in Rech an article to the memory of V. M. Sobolevsky, wrote that he was a “great sceptic in respect of the availability of the forces possessed by our progressive society”.

Nothing here is definite. What sort of scepticism was it? What society is he talking about? The curtain is drawn back slightly by the words of V. M. Sobolevsky that Mr. Panteleyev quotes: “What has a society to offer that in the mass is saturated to the marrow of its bones with the traditions and habits of serfdom? What support for a new system is to be expected from millions of semi-slaves, beggars, starving people, drunkards and ignoramuses?”

Mr. Panteleyev, who deemed it proper to publish these frank statements, did not notice the light they cast on the attitude of Russian liberals to democracy.

In the summer of 1905, Russkiye Vedomosti published an article by Mr. Vinogradov, the star of liberal scholar ship, arguing that these semi-slaves should not go too far, that they should be more modest and calm. Russkiye Vedomosti was probably a little ahead of other liberal news papers in declaring quite definitely its counter-revolutionary attitude to events.

There is scepticism and scepticism. As far as a public figure is concerned, one should ask: in respect of which class is he a sceptic? Sobolevsky (and his Russkiye Vedomosti) was a sceptic and even a pessimist in respect of the peasantry. He was an optimist in respect of the landowners; he pictured them as being capable of “reforms”, as “sincerely sympathising with the new social system” as “cultured people”, etc. The mixture of this landowner liberalism (not semi-slavish but utterly slavish) and Narodism, was a sign of the rottenness of the “enlightened”, well-to-do, satiated liberal society that taught slave morality and slave politics to the “millions of semi-slaves” who were awakening. This liberal society was, “to the marrow of its bones”, slavish towards the landowners, and the Narodism of Russkiye Vedomosti reflects more than anything else the patriarchal Russia of the humble muzhik and the landowner flirting with liberalism.


[1] Russkiye Vedomosti (Russian Recorder)—a daily newspaper published in Moscow from 1863 onwards by liberal professors of Moscow University and Zemstvo officials; it expressed the views of the liberal landowners and bourgeoisie. From 1905 onwards it was an organ of the Right Cadets; shortly after the October Revolution in 1917 it was suppressed.

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