V. I.   Lenin

How Servility to Reaction is Blended with Playing at Democracy

Written: Written in June 1915
Published: First published in a special issue, entitled Along the Path of Lenin, of the journal Sputnik Kemmunista, January 1925. Signed: N. Lenin. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [197[4]], Moscow, Volume 21, pages 266-269.
Transcription\Markup: D. Walters and R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 2002 (2005). 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.
Other Formats:   TextREADME

The Cadet collection of articles entitled What Russia Expects of the War (Petrograd, 1915) is a very useful book for those wishing to acquaint themselves with the politics of the liberal intelligentsia. The extent to which our Cadets and liberals have turned chauvinist is sufficiently known. The present issue of our magazine contains a special article on this question. However, the assembly, in one hook, of the works of various Cadets dealing with a variety of subjects bearing on the war shows concretely the role, not only of the Constitutional-Democratic Party in present-day imperialist politics, but also of the liberal intelligentsia as a whole.

The specific function of such an intelligentsia and of this particular party is to disguise reaction and imperialism with all kinds of democratic phrases, assurances, sophisms, and subterfuges. The principal article in the book, entitled “Russia’s Territorial Acquisitions”, is by Milyukov, the Cadet leader. An article like this could not but set forth the actual significance of the present war, as far as Russia is concerned: her desire to seize Galicia, and take part of Poland from Austria and Germany, and Constantinople, the Straits, and Armenia from Turkey. To provide a democratic screen, phrases are pronounced about “Slav unity”, the interests of “small nationalities”, and the “menace to European peace” presented by Germany. Only in passing, almost casually as it were, does Milyukov blurt out the truth in one of his sentences.

To unite Eastern Galicia with Russia has long been the aim of a Russian political party which has the backing of   one of the political parties in Galicia, the so-called Moscowphiles” (p. 49). Exactly! The Russian party referred to is the most reactionary in Russia, that of Purishkeviclj and Co., a party of the feudalist-minded landowners led by tsarism. This “party”—tsarism, the Purishkeviches and the rest—have long been intriguing both in Galicia and Armenia, etc, spending millions on bribing the “Moscowphiles”, stopping at no crime to achieve the lofty aim of “uniting” Eastern Galicia with Russia. War is a “continuation of the politics” of this party. The war has been useful in having brushed aside all conventions, torn away all veils, let the people see the full truth with their own eyes: preservation of the tsarist monarchy means the need to sacrifice millions of lives (and thousands of millions of the people’s money so as to enslave other nations. In practice, it is these policies that have been backed and served by the Constitutional-Democratic Party.

This truth is unpalatable to the liberal intellectual, who considers himself humane, freedom-loving, and democratic, and is deeply indignant at the “calumny” that asserts he is a servant to the Purishkeviches. The war, however, has shown this “calumny” to be the most obvious truth.

Let us cast a glance at other articles in the book.

Our future can be happy and bright only when international politics rest on a foundation of justice. Faith in life and its value will at the same time be the triumph of peace... [215]. Russian women, and with them all thinking humanity...” hope that “when peace is concluded, all the belligerent states will simultaneously sign a pact according to which all international misunderstandings [what a word! As if what has happened among states were merely “misunderstandings"!] ... shall be settled by arbitration” (216).

Russian women, who represent the people, will carry into the people the ideas of Christian love and the brotherhood of nations ... [216]. [Here the censor has deleted one line and a half, apparently super-“huinanitarian” expressions such as liberty, equality, fraternity.] ... Those who know that the writer of these lines can least of all be suspected of nationalism, do not need to be persuaded that the ideas propounded here have nothing whatsoever in common   with any kind of national exclusiveness... [83]. Only now do we realise and actually feel that in modern wars we are threatened, not by the loss of colonies, however precious, or by failure to free other nations, but by disintegration of the state itself...” (147).

Read and give thought to how it is being done! Learn how an allegedly democratic party conducts its politics, i.e., leads the masses!

To serve the class of the Purisbkeviches, one must, at the decisive moments of history (at times when the aims of that class are to be achieved by war), help that class, or at least “oer no resistance to the war”. At the same time, one must console the “people”, the “masses”, and “democracy”, with fine words such as justice, peace, national liberation. settling international conflicts by arbitration, the brotherhood of nations, liberty, reforms, democracy, universal suffrage, etc. In doing so, one must beat one’s breast in token of sincerity, aver and swear that “we” “can least of all be suspected of nationalism”, that “our” ideas have “nothing whatsoever in common with any kind of national exclusiveness”, and that we are only fighting against “disintegration of the state"!

That is how “it is being done”.

That is how the liberal intellectuals make politics.

The liberal-labour politicians are behaving essentially in exactly the same way, but in a different environment and in a slightly modified form. These range from Nasha Zarya, which teaches the people and the proletariat “to offer no resistance to the war”, continuing with Nashe Dyelo, which identifies itself with the views of Messrs. Potresov and Co. (No. 2, p. 19) and Plekhanov (No. 2, p. 103) and which reprints without a single dissenting remark similar ideas of Axeirod (No. 2, pp. 107-10), continuing further with Semkovsky, who battles in Nashe Slovo and in Izvestia of the Organising Committee against “disintegration”, to Chkheidze’s group, the Organising Committee and the Bund, who are fighting tooth and nail against a “split” (with the Nashe Dyelo group). Moreover, they all stand for the brotherhood of the workers, peace, internationalism, and whatever you please; they will sign whatever you wish; they will renounce “nationalism” millions of times, on the   single and “minor” condition—that “unity” should not be sundered with that Russian political group which alone (of the entire company) has some weight and, in journal and newspaper, has been teaching the workers opportunism, nationalism, and non-resistance to the war.

That is how “it is being done”.


< backward   forward >
Works Index   |   Volume 21 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index