V. I.   Lenin

Russian Government and Russian Reforms

Published: Pravda Truda No. 14, September 26, 1913. Signed: Observer. Published according to the Pravda Truda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 392-393.
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

There is a little magazine called Grazhdanin[1] compiled by Prince Meshchersky. The Prince, who has been through fire and water in the various higher civil service “spheres” of St. Petersburg, usually preaches in this magazine the most reactionary things.

The magazine is interesting primarily because in it the talkative Prince is continually divulging the secrets of the higher administration of Russia. For Russia is actually administered by those landowner dignitaries in whose society Prince Meshchersky moved and is still moving. And they actually do administer Russia in exactly the way, in exactly the spirit, by exactly the means advised, assumed and suggested by Prince Meshchersky.

In the second place, the magazine is interesting because its courtly editor, confident that it will never reach the people, often exposes the Russian administration in the most ruthless manner.

Here are two interesting admissions made by this princely dignitary:

A very typical phenomenon,” he writes. “From time to time people come to us from France, or Belgium, or England, nice people who show a sympathy for Russia and the Russians, they stay in luxurious circumstances in a hotel, submit their letters of introduction to some official or another ... and quite soon, in perhaps ten days or so, these newly arrived foreigners are received by some minister and are given hopes of receiving some concession, which they take off home with them.... Then back they come again and a week later they have already acquired a concession somewhere in Russia and are counting up the foreseeable profits with such energy that they have dreams of millions.”

That is what Prince Meshchersky writes. By way of exception he writes the truth. Features of Asiatic primitiveness, governmental graft, the schemes of financiers who share their monopoly incomes with highly-placed officials, are still boundlessly strong in Russian capitalism. When our Narodniks fight, and fight with good reason, against such disgusting and shameless swindles, they often regard it as a war against capitalism. Their mistake is obvious. They are actually fighting for the democratisation of capitalism.

When I was abroad,” the arch-reactionary Prince writes in an other place, “I was in contact with people in different walks of life.... I do not remember that any sort of social or state reforms ever constituted the subject of the conversation.... I read the newspapers ... but found no articles about reforms.... As soon as I crossed the frontier and reached home, I found the reverse; I took up the first Russian newspaper I came across and on the first, the second and even the third page there were articles about some sort of reforms.”

Correctly observed. The bourgeoisie does not need reforms in Europe. In Russia they are necessary. The princely dignitary cannot understand the reason for this difference—just as some wise people cannot understand that the strongly anti–reformist tactics of the workers are justified because of the bourgeoisie’s need for reforms.


[1] Grazhdanin (The Citizen)—a reactionary magazine published in St. Petersburg from 1872 to 1914. From the 1880s it was the organ of the extreme monarchists and was edited by Prince Meshchersky and financed by the government. It had a small circulation but was influential in bureaucratic circles.

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