V. I.   Lenin

Liberal Embellishment of Serfdom

Published: Pravda, No 57, March 9, 1913. Signed: I.. Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 592-593.
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.
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Mr. Milyukov, a liberal historian, leader of the Cadet Party, wrote in a recent leading article in Rech:

Social inequality in Russia [serfdom] turned out to be more fragile and accidentally established than anywhere else in the civilised world. It gave way without resistance [!!!] at the very first stroke of the pen. Milyutin and Solovyov accomplished without difficulty something the feasibility of which Count Stroganov predicted as long ago as the reign of Alexander I.”

We are used to seeing all liberal and some Narodnik historians embellish serfdom and the serf-owning state power in Russia. But not all went to the length of such disgraceful “gems” as the one we have just quoted.

Serfdom and the serf-owning landlord class in Russia were not fragile and accidentally established but much “stronger”, more firm, powerful and omnipotent “than any where else in the civilised world”. It did not cede even a small part of its privileges “without resistance”, but did it with the greatest resistance. Or perhaps the liberal gentleman could point out in the “civilised world” examples comparable to the fate of Chernyshevsky?

Milyutin and Solovyov themselves upheld the privileges of the feudal landlords and the exceedingly onerous “compensation” for these privileges. By saying nothing about this, Mr. Milyukov distorts history, which testifies to half a century of “tenacious” feudal privileges, omnipotence and unlimited power after Milyutin and Co., after “their” feudal reform.

Why do liberal historians embellish serfdom and feudal reforms? Because they see in the activity of the makers of   such reforms a servility to the feudal lords that is gratifying to them, a fear of democracy that they find encouraging, a desire for a bloc with reaction that they appreciate, and an embellishment of the class struggle that is familiar to them.

The question relates to the distant past. And yet the attitude to the class struggle adopted then and now by the liberals (liberals “without and bureaucrats within”[1]) is a phenomenon of one and the same nature.

By embellishing serfdom, Mr. Milyukov has splendidly portrayed his own self, his party and all Russian bourgeois liberals, who class themselves among the democrats in order to fool simpletons.


[1] The words quoted by Lenin are a paraphrase of two lines in N. Nekrasov’s “Cradle Song”, which read as follows:

You will be an official without
And a scoundrel within....

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