V. I.   Lenin

Liberal Appeals to Support the Fourth Duma

Published: Pravda No. 139, June 20, 1913. Signed: V. I.. Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 238-240.
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

The question of the State Duma’s attitude to the government and the country is becoming an ever more frequent subject for discussion in the press and is arousing quite a lot of interest. The June Third election law created two possible majorities—Right-Octobrist and Octobrist-Cadet. This latter, the “liberal” majority if you will, was also formed on a number of occasions in the Third Duma.

In the present Fourth Duma the Octobrist-Cadet majority occurs still more frequently. It must not be forgotten, however, that this is not only due to an Octobrist shift to the left but also to a Cadet shift to the right, which is expressed by the secession of part of the Cadets to the Progressists, on the one hand, and the constant deals between the Octobrists and the Cadets with the Progressists as intermediaries, on the other.

There is no doubt that the more frequent oppositionist decisions carried in the Fourth Duma by the Octobrist-Cadet majority are evidence of the growing political crisis in Russia, are evidence that the June Third system has entered a blind alley and has not satisfied even the bourgeoisie, who were prepared to sacrifice, for the benefit of that system, for the strengthening of the counter-revolution, their money, their honour and their conscience.

It is typical that even such an out-and-out, implacable reactionary as the German historian Schiemann, who knows Russian and writes for the organ of the German Purishkeviches, comes to the conclusion that the crisis in Russia is growing—either in the form of a system that is purely Plehve[2] in spirit (surely we have already entered that “system”?) or in the form of what this German historian calls upheavals.

What conclusions in practical politics, may we ask, emerge from these increasingly frequent liberal Duma decisions?

The Cadets have already drawn their conclusion on the Octobrists’ condemnation of the policy pursued by the Ministry of the Interior. Their conclusion is to demand “the support of the people and society” for the Fourth Duma, to call upon “public opinion” to “see in the Duma one’s own strength, the direct manifestation of the public will”, etc. (See Pravda No. 128.)

We have already spoken of the complete ineffectiveness of such a conclusion.[1] The voting on the Ministry of Public Education estimates was an exceedingly clear confirmation of our appraisal.

The Duma adopted three formulations: (1) a nationalistic, arch-reactionary formulation passed by the votes of the Rights and the Octobrists, (2) an Octobrist formulation passed by the Cadet vote (it expresses the wish, disgusting in its hypocrisy and absolutely impermissible for democrats or even honest liberals, that the Ministry of Public Education will “not be distracted by irrelevant political considerations”); lastly, = (3) the wish of the peasant group, which was most likely passed not only with the help of the Constitutional-Democrats but of all democrats, including the Social-Democrats. The wish expressed by the peasants received 137 votes for and 134 against with 4 abstaining.

There can scarcely be any doubt that the error of the Social-Democrats, if they voted for the peasant formulation, was in not presenting their own statement or declaration. It was right to vote in favour, but they should also have added a proviso expressing their disagreement with, for instance, point five of the peasant formulation. That point speaks of the native language in elementary schools. Democracy cannot confine itself to elementary schools. And in general, it cannot be admitted that the wishes of the peasants are consistently democratic.

It was right to vote in favour, because in the peasant formulation there are no points in support of the government, and no hypocrisy, but it was essential to express disagreement   with the inconsistency and timidity of peasant democracy. Silence on the relationship between the school and the church, for instance, is absolutely impermissible for Social-Democrats, etc.

That, however, is en passant.

The main thing is that the Fourth Duma, after the Cadets’ appeals to support it, adopted the formulation of the nationalists!

Only a blind man could fail to see that support for the Fourth Duma is support for the wavering Octobrists.

The Cadets boast that they are pushing the Octobrists into opposition by their support. Let us suppose for a moment that that is so. On what basis is this Octobrist opposition founded? At best, when they are in opposition they undoubtedly support the point of view of counter-revolutionary liberalism. That they continue to depend on the ministers and to gratify them, was demonstrated even by the “progressist” N. Lvov, who was surely pursuing a policy of gratification when he banned Shchepkin from two sittings because of an expression a hundred times milder than the usual expressions of the Rights.

When they call on the people to support the wavering Octobrists, the Cadets are trying to make democrats follow in the wake of the worst of the liberals.

The democrats, however, have seen from hundreds of more impressive examples just what our liberals are worth. Democracy would be enfeebled and deprived of leadership if it were again to follow the liberals.

The clash between the bourgeoisie and the government is not an accident, it is an indication of the profound crisis that is maturing on all sides. It is, therefore, imperative to keep a close watch on these clashes. But democracy will be able to achieve something better for Russia only if it does not for one moment forget its duty—to do everything to develop in the population a consciousness of the independent nature of the tasks of democracy as distinct from liberalism, in contrast to liberalism and regardless of liberalism’s vacillations.


[1] See pp. 177–79 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] Plehve, V. K. (1846-1904)—a reactionary statesman; from 1867 he served in the Department of Justice; as public prosecutor he con ducted the investigation for and took part in the Narodnaya Volya trial. In 1902 he became Minister of the Interior and Chief of the Gendarmerie, in which posts he did everything possible to stifle the growing revolutionary movement, dealing ruthlessly with workers’ strikes and demonstrations and with the peasant movement; he tried to break up the working-class movement by means of provocations, etc. In 1904 he was assassinated by the Socialist- Revolutionary Sazonov.

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