Prosveshcheniye No. 3, March 1914.
Signed: V. Ilyin.
Published according to the text in Prosveshcheniye.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 170-171.
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.
Some time ago, the Council of State rejected the proposal that Polish should abe the official language in the future self-governing Poland. This vote, which took place against the wishes of the head of the Ministry, throws considerable light on the question of Russia’s master classes and on the “specific features” of our political system and administration.
The long history of the Polish language question in connection with Polish self-government has been highlighted in the press. The Russian landlords, who are at the helm of the state, started negotiations with the Polish aristocracy on this question a long time ago, as far back as 1907. The terms were discussed for at least co-operation, or simply a relatively peaceful cohabitation between the Russian Black Hundreds and the Polish Black Hundreds. And all this was done; of course, entirely and solely in the interests of the “national culture”.
Polish national culture was defended by the Polish landlords, who bargained for self-government (instead of autonomy) and for Polish as the official language. Russian national culture was defended by the Great-Russian landlords, who stipulated (possessing everything, they had no need to bar gain) supremacy for Russian national culture and the severance from Poland of the “Russian” Holm area. The two parties made a deal, which, among other things, was directed against the Jews, whom they reduced in advance to a restrictive “numerus clausus”, so that Poland should not lag be hind Russia in Black-Hundred baiting and oppression of the Jews.
Stolypin is reported to have conducted these negotiations with the Polish aristocracy, the land magnates of Poland, in person. Stolypin made promises. The bills were introduced. But ... the Holm area found itself detached from Poland, whereas the Polish language in a self-governing Poland was rejected by our Council of State. Stolypin’s cause was “faithfully and truly” championed by Kokovtsov, but with out avail. The Right members of the Council of State did not support him.
Here is another agreement, although a minor one, that was “torn up”. Recently, Guchkov stated in the name of the all-Russian bourgeoisie that the latter had entered into a tacit agreement with the counter-revolutionary government “to support it in return for reforms”. The support was given, but no reforms ensued.
In the example we have quoted, it was not the bourgeoisie, not the opposition, but the blue-blooded landlords who concluded what was also a tacit agreement, viz., “we” shall take a step towards Stolypin, and shall receive self-government, with the Polish language. They took the step, but received no Polish language.
Valuable, political lessons are to be learnt from this small example. The struggle of nationalities is developing before our eyes into a deal between the ruling classes of two nations, in which special provision is made for the oppression of a third nation (the Jewish). We must not forget that all ruling classes, the bourgeoisie as well as the landlords, even the most democratic bourgeoisie, behave in the same way.
Russia’s real political system and administration are revealed in their class basis: the landlords give the orders; they decide and rule. The power of this class is supreme. It gives the bourgeoisie “access” ... only to agreements, which it tears up.
Nor is that all. It appears that even within the master class itself agreements are “torn up” with extraordinary and supernatural ease. This is what distinguishes Russia from other class states; this constitutes our exceptionalism, under which problems resolved in Europe two hundred or a hundred years ago are still unresolved here.