V. I.   Lenin

Mr. Struve on the Need to “Reform the Government”

Published: Put Pravdy No. 18, February 21, 1914. Published according to the text in Put Pravdy.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 114-116.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Joe Fineberg
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

Mr. Struve is one of the most outspoken of the counter revolutionary liberals. It is often very instructive, there fore, to lend an ear to the political comments of a writer who is a striking illustration of the correctness of the Marxian analysis of opportunism (for Mr. Struve, as we know, began with opportunism, with a “criticism of Marxism”, and in a few years fell as low as counter-revolutionary, bourgeois national-liberalism).

In the January issue of Russkaya Mysl, Mr. Struve discussed the need “to reform the government”. In the first place, he admits the failure of the Stolypin policy,[1] as well as of the entire reaction of 1907–14 and Octobrism.[2] Reaction “faces a crisis”, writes Mr. Struve. In his opinion, attempts at back-pedalling reforms, such as turning the Duma into a legislative-consultative body, will “put the government in the same position it was in before 1905”, with this important difference, however, that the people have changed since then. “In 1905 the sympathies and instincts of the masses swung over to the intelligentsia.”

This is written by a Vekhist,[3] a fervent opponent of revolution and an exponent of the most obscurantist theories. Even he is compelled to admit that the masses have swung to the left; but this liberal dares not say more plainly, clearly and exactly which classes among these masses have aligned themselves with which parties.

Our people has not taken shape yet, has not yet separated into its elements. The fact that it has been conservative for such a long time and gone revolutionary overnight, as it were, does not tell us what it will become when all its latent potentialities will have developed.”

This is a specimen of the phrase-mongering with which the bourgeoisie covers up unpalatable truths. Obviously, what is implied here by the term people is the peasantry, since the bourgeoisie (let alone the landlords) and the working class have sufficiently taken shape, and are sufficiently differentiated. The liberal dares not in so many words admit that the bourgeois peasantry “has not yet taken shape”, despite the frantic efforts of the new agrarian policy.

What is the way out of the present situation?” Mr. Struve asks, and replies: “There is only a single alternative: either steadily increasing political unrest, in which the middle classes and the moderate elements that represent them... [so the moderate elements “represent” the middle classes? This is not very intelligent but politically it is fairly clear; which elements, then, “represent” the peasantry and the workers?] will again be pushed into the background by the elemental pressure of the popular masses who will be in spired by the extreme elements, or, the reform of government. We shall not deal here with the first way out. Under the conditions prevailing in Russia we definitely adhere to the point of view that it is impossible for us either to work effectively towards such a solution, or even simply to desire it....” (Thank you for being so candid, Mr. Struve! Our liquidators could well take a lesson in plain-speaking and candour from this man, instead of beating about the bush the way L. M. does in the January issue of Nasha Zarya.)

It is left for us to suggest to the public mind the second way out as being an urgent problem which has to be solved by the joint efforts of all progressive and, at the same time, preservatory forces.”

Of this second way out Mr. Struve has absolutely nothing to say except empty phrases. The bourgeoisie is for moderation, the masses are for “extremes”—this the liberal is compelled to admit. As to what the social structure of the reformable “government” must be, what its class basis should be, and what has become of the landlords who reigned and governed unchallenged prior to the bourgeoisie—of all this Mr. Struve dares not even think. Helplessness, impotence and complete lack of principles and ideals—such are the inevitable features of the liberal bourgeoisie so long as it fawns (as Messrs. Struve and Co. do) on the Purishkeviches.

Strange as it may appear,” Mr. Struve writes, “there is nothing that we could wish the government more than that it should forget that there ever were events, facts and moods which we are accustomed to call the Russian revolution.”

Splendid, profound, wise, and earnest political advice! Let the “government forget”. After all, aged people do some times forget what is happening to them and around them!

The spokesmen of senile Russian liberalism measure others with their own yardstick.


[1] Stolypin, P. A. (1862–1911)—an extreme reactionary, Chairman of the Council of Ministers in 1906–11. His name is associated with the suppression of the first Russian revolution (1905–07) and the ensuing period of harsh political reaction.

[2] Octobrists—members of the “Union of October Seventeenth” Party formed in Russia after the promulgation of the tsar’s Manifesto of October 17, 1905. It was a counter-revolutionary party, representing the interests of the big bourgeoisie and landlords who had gone over to capitalist forms of ownership. Its leaders were the well-known industrialist and Moscow house-owner A. I. Guchkov, and the big landowner M. V. Rodzyanko. The Octobrists wholly supported the home and foreign policies of the tsarist government.

[3] Vekhists—participants of the symposium Vekhi (Landmarks)—a collection of articles by prominent Cadet publicists representing the counter-revolutionary liberal bourgeoisie: = N. A. Berdayev, S. N. Bulgakov, M. 0. Herschensohn, A. S. Izgoyev, B. A. Kistyakovsky, P. B. Struve and S. L. Frank. Issued in Moscow in the spring of 1909.

In articles on the Russian Intelligentsia the Vekhists tried to malign the revolutionary-democratic traditions of the Russian nation’s finest sons, among them V. G. Belinsky and N. G. Chernyshevsky. They vilified the revolutionary movement, of 1905 and thanked the tsarist government for having saved the bourgeoisie from “the fury of the people with its bayonets and jails”. The symposium called upon the intelligentsia to serve the autocracy. Lenin compared the Vekhi programme in philosophy and journalism with that of the Black-Hundred newspaper Moskovskiye Vedomosti, and called the symposium “an encyclopaedia of liberal renegacy” “nothing but a flood of reactionary mud poured on democracy”. (See present edition, Vol. 16, p. 453.)

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