V. I.   Lenin

Political Disputes Among the Liberals

Published: Put Pravdy No. 25, March 1, 1914. Published according to the text in Put Pravdy.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 129-131.
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.

Put Pravdy (No. 18) of last Friday published an article entitled “Mr. Struve on the Need to ‘Reform the Government’”[1] in which we informed our readers of the appraisal of the political situation in Russia given by one of the most outspoken and consistent of the counter-revolutionary liberals.

The next day Rech published-a tremendously long “doctrinal” article by Mr. Milyukov “against” Mr. Struve in connection with this very article on the need to reform the government. It will be useful to dwell on this dispute between the two liberals, firstly, because vital issues of Russian politics Are involved, and secondly, because it reveals the two political types of leading bourgeois. And they are types that will have important political significance in Russia for a long time to come, for decades, types that are of similar significance in all capitalist countries. In its own interests, the proletariat must know these types.

During the past few years Mr. Struve has set forth his views most fully and clearly in the book Vekhi.[2] These are the views of a counter-revolutionary liberal, an adherent of religion (and of philosophical idealism as the truest and most “scholarly” road to it), and an opponent of democracy. They are the clear, distinctly expressed views, not of an individual, but of a class, for as a matter of fact the entire mass of the Octobrist and Cadet bourgeoisie in Russia during 1907–14 subscribed to them.

The crux of the matter is that the Octobrist and Cadet bourgeoisie have swung to the right, away from democracy. The crux of the matter is that this bourgeoisie is more afraid   of the people than of reaction. The crux of the matter is that this rightward swing has not been accidental, but has been caused by the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The crux of the matter is that Struve and then Maklakov have told the truth about their class and their party more frankly than other Cadets have.

And this home truth has been very unpalatable to the diplomats of the Cadet Party (headed by Mr. Milyukov), who deem it necessary to flirt with democracy in the belief that the role of this democracy is not quite played out, and that the bourgeoisie may perhaps have to live and act in a milieu created, not only by the Purishkeviches but—God forbid—by the democracy, by the “mob”, by the “street”, by the workers.

While taking the same line as Mr. Struve and Mr. Maklakov, Mr. Milyukov tries to cover it up, show himself off before the public, fool democracy and keep it in leading strings. That is why Mr. Milyukov pretends that he disagrees with Vekhi, that he disagrees with Struve, and that he is refuting Maklakov, when as a matter of fact he is merely teaching Struve and Maklakov how to conceal their thoughts more cunningly.

The gist of Mr. Milyukov’s long article against Struve is his accusation that Struve is “hopelessly muddled”.

Hot and strong, is it not?

Where is the muddle? It is in Struve’s holding the “optimistic” belief that the government can be reformed, while at the same time saying that it is learning no lessons from the “upheavals” and is making them inevitable. The way out, according to Mr. Struve, is either “unrest”, or the reform of government. As for the first way out, Mr. Struve does not want to “effectively work” for it or even “wish” it.

Mr. Struve is indeed muddled, but then so is Mr. Milyukov—completely, absolutely muddled, for neither can the Constitutional-Democratic Party—of which Milyukov is the leader—“wish” the first way out or “effectively work” for it.

This is proved, not by words (those who in politics judge men and parties by their words are foolish), but by their deeds, i.e., by the entire history of the Constitutional-Democratic Party from 1905 to 1914, for almost a decade.

The Constitutional-Democratic Party is more afraid of siding with the workers (on questions of the minimum programme, of course) than of being dependent on the Purishkeviches.

This applies to the entire party, to the entire Cadet and Octobrist bourgeoisie. And Milyukov simply makes himself ridiculous when he tries to lay the blame for this on Struve alone.

In all countries the experience of history shows that a bourgeoisie which desires progress vacillates between siding with the workers and being dependent on the Purishkeviches. In all countries—and the more civilised amid free the country, the more marked this is—we see two types of bourgeois politicians. One type openly leans towards religion, towards the Purishkeviches, towards a forthright struggle against democracy, and tries to build imp consistent theoretical evidence to support this tendency. The other type specialises in covering up this very same tendency by flirting with democracy.

There are diplomatic Milyukovs everywhere, and the workers must learn to detect the cloven hoof at once.


[1] See pp. 114–16 of this volume—Ed.

[2] See Note 71.

Works Index   |   Volume 20 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >