Leon Trotsky

Open Letter to
Professor P.N. Miliukov

(August 1905)

Written: August 1905.
Source: Revolutionary Russia, Vol. 3 No. 2 (1990), pp. 224–238.
Translated and Edited: Ian Thatcher.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido and David Walters.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.


Throughout almost the whole of Trotskii’s political career one can find him referring to, and debating with, Professor Pavel Miliukov (1859–1943), historian, leader of the Constitutional Democrat Party, and Foreign Minister in the 1917 Russian Provisional Government.

Trotskii credited Miliukov, who in a speech of 1906 spoke of ‘the revolutionary illusions of Trotskiiism’, as the inventor of the term ‘Trotskiiism’. [1] In his writings on the events of 1917 Trotskii highlighted Miliukov as one of the people who ‘really struggled’ against the theory of permanent revolution. [2] Certainly, Miliukov was Bolshevism’s political opponent and attempted to discredit and destroy it. Moreover, on several occasions, these activities directly affected Trotskii. For example, in his capacity as Foreign Minister of the Russian Provisional Government Miliukov tried to keep Trotskii detained at Halifax in Canada for as long as possible. Furthermore, it was Miliukov who accused Trotskii of being in the pay of the Germans and called for his arrest. It was with these events in mind that Trotskii was later to argue that Stalin’s attack on Trotskii’s supposed ‘counter-revolutionary activity’ amounted to a repetition of Miliukov’s 1917 tactics. [3] Ultimately, for Trotskii, Miliukov was ‘organically bourgeois’; an enemy of the proletariat and even disliked by his own class because he, too prosaically and soberly ... expressed the political essence of the Russian bourgeoisie. Beholding himself in the Miliukov mirror, the bourgeois saw that he was grey, self-interested and cowardly; and, as so often happens, he took offence at the mirror. [4]

The Open Letter was written in the August of 1905, the year of the first Russian revolution, and published by several Social-Democratic organisations. Trotskii was motivated to write the letter; by Miliukov’s support for the Tsar’s approval of the Bulygin Constitution on the 6 August. This ‘Constitution’ proposed a Duma: which would be elected on a restricted franchise, which would have only consultative rights, and which could be dissolved at the Tsar’s pleasure. [5] In the letter Trotskii attempts to expose the politics of liberalism as a historical dead-end, seeking to compromise the irreconcilable and being crushed in the clash of two extremes. For Deutscher, the letter was ‘the most biting and most subtle [of] ... all his philippics against liberalism’. [6] Indeed, the letter is a type of cultured revolutionary polemic that today one rarely encounters. As such, and outwith its relevance to 1905 and post-1905 developments, the letter stands as a passionate statement of the necessity for revolutionary politics.

This first full translation of the letter includes Trotskii’s August 1906 postscript and was taken from pages 136–48 of Nasha revoliutsiia (St. Petersburg 1906). All footnotes are mine unless stated otherwise.


Institute of Soviet and East European Studies,
Glasgow University


August 1905

On the day of the publication of the constitution with the consent of Konstantin Petrovich Pobedonostsev you, Mr. Professor, felt it necessary to address Russian ‘society’. The newspaper which serves a section of the Russian oppositional intelligentsia gave you a forum. Despite its popularity I do not consider Synotechestva (Son of the Fatherland) to be a politically influential newspaper which has some amount of real political power behind it. I by no means think that you are an official spokesman for any party. Nor do I think that you, with the pressure of your voice, can turn the Liberal Party on to a road which would be satisfactory to you. In other words, I do not consider you to be a political leader. If, none the less, I feel it necessary to address you with this open letter then I do so for the single reason that your thoughts, moving along the line of least resistance, formulate a political prejudice which you have no right to consider as your personal property. If you had not spoken then somebody else would have. For, and with this you will not argue, once a type of prejudice is prevalent in society one will always find a professor who, by his authority, will articulate it; and one will always find a liberal publication which is ready to hide its collective opportunism behind the cover of the professor’s individual authority. This is in the order of things, Mr. Professor!

In the beginning of your letter you expound different evaluations of the event of the 6 August, both under- and overestimations of its significance, but you do not expound upon one: to question that this event ‘crossed some kind of border, i.e., today we stand on the other side of the pass from that which we walked on yesterday’, and that ‘one cannot return to the previous historical course of yesterday’.

Together with you the whole liberal and semi-liberal press is convinced that ‘the Rubicon has been crossed’, i.e., ‘it happened!’ What is this thing which ‘happened?’ Who crossed and over which Rubicon? You say that a return to the past is impossible. Why impossible? And for whom?

Is it impossible for reaction to return to the path of pure absolutism? If it is impossible then why? Is it for general reasons: because money is needed and the revolutionary mood is growing or because henceforth we have the Imperial Document of the 6th of August? If you have such general reasons in view then these existed before the 6th of August and then, it goes without saying, we did not dispute the fact that absolutism would inevitably be scrapped. But when and how?

These general reasons do not pre-determine this. They call for the practical resolution of this question by initiative, by thought, and by the courageous organisation of conscious political forces. Do you think that the manifesto itself makes a return to the past impossible? But in what way? What has it changed in the correlation of class forces between reaction and revolution? Has it given the people any type of real power which they did not possess before? No, it has not. Does it limit the power of the bureaucracy? No, it does not. When, between two social historical epochs, you think that one can create a watershed made from papier mache you, Mr. Professor, reveal only the weak side of your mental qualities. Today absolutism operates as it did before the 6th of August – by the bureaucratic apparatus, by the courts, by the gendarmerie and by the army. It is doomed to destruction but while it has all these means at its disposal it will be the ruler. It is able to summon and despatch. It is able to allow and forbid the expression of opinions. In actual fact the historical Rubicon is crossed only in those moments when the material means of armed supremacy pass from the hands of absolutism into the hands of the people. But such things, Mr. Professor, never occur through the signing of a piece of paper. Such things occur on the streets. They are completed through struggle. They are decided by way of the collision of the people with armed reaction.

If, Mr. Professor of History, one attempts to remember the Great French Revolution then one learns that the French crossed the border not on the 8th of August, when Louis XVI signed the manifesto on the creation of the States General, but on the 14th of July when the people of Paris armed themselves and defended their rights with united forces. And the final, full and decisive victory was the uprising of the 10th of August, the overthrow of the monarchy. The 14th of July and the 10th of August. Here are the actual, real landmarks of French freedom; absolutely not the directives and parchments which were pieces of paper floating over the arena of this bitter collision.

If one turns to the events of 1848 then one should recognise that the historical watershed was not the manifesto of Friedrich IV of Prussia which convoked the archaic United Landtag, but the day of the victory of the street revolution, the 18th of March. And history’s memory, which discards all ordinary calender dates, preserves the days of the 14th of July, the 10th of August and the 18th of March as days on which to celebrate freedom.

You think that we have fully crossed the border. The objectives have been achieved; and, ‘it would be an unforgivable political mistake to leave these positions without defence or even to abandon them without fear since this would obviously be desired by those who want to directly occupy these positions’.

You continue: ‘Today in Russia there has arisen a “peoples’ representative” and this fact cannot be denied by any kind of interpretation either from the right, or from the left.’ And you invite those who, like yourself, defend this representative from the blows of the right or of the left. And, in the same day, Mr. Syromiatnikov [7] writes with you in Slovo: ‘Two extreme parties will try to destroy it (state self-management) and we, the progressive centre, will guard the consistency of the new legislative apparatus from the attempts to discredit and destroy it.’ [8]

‘To say that we gained nothing from the proclamation of this law’, you Mr. Professor write, ‘would amount to helping the opponents on the right’. Mr Syromiatnikov, commenting and amplifying: ‘Perhaps there could be a temporary unification of the reactionaries and the socialist-republicans in a temporary alliance against the first attempts at Russia’s rule of law.’ You, Mr. Professor, like all liberal writers address your letters to so-called ‘society’ and say to it: Be ‘at your posts!’ Elect representatives for the defence of your rights!

But turning to ‘society’ you construct your letter so as to persuade all of the people of this. But it is in precisely this way that you conspire, in liberal-newspaper jargon, with propertied society against the people. Does this statement appear to you as being partial and unjust? However, the sense of your article is precisely formulated by it. Just a minute, Mr. Professor.

You do not convince the mass of the people since they are deprived of electoral rights. They are not able to boycott the Duma since the Duma boycotts them. The real representatives of the interests of the people cannot enter the State Duma. This is your Duma. This is an establishment for the supremacy of the propertied exploiting classes. The conscious proletariat which clearly and unambiguously expressed its attitude to the State Duma when it was still a project, formulated in the following way their ‘address to Zemstvo and Duma representatives’ who were given rights of civic political treachery in taking part in the elections:

To participate in the public elections to the (consultative) State Duma means to legitimate the all-powerful tsarist government.

To participate in the public elections to the State Duma means to approve of the crude deprivation of the people of their electoral rights.

To participate in the public elections to the State Duma means to openly join the camp of the tsarist government.

We, the workers, solemnly announce that we will consider all those who participate in the sham comedy elections to the State Duma to be enemies of the people.

So speak the advanced workers. If you, Mr. Professor, had any kind of understanding of the feelings of the people, and of the proletarian mass in particular, then you would agree that these are the voices which receive the broadest response. But if this was so then you should have thought ten times before speaking in the political forum and saying to the propertied exploiting classes:

Despite the fact that the electoral law separates you from the masses; despite the fact that the working masses were not only not inclined to believe in your lawful mandate but beforehand announced participation in the elections to be an act of treachery in itself; despite the fact that you are not able to have the support of all the people; despite the fact that a break with them means your political death – elect, elect so that you can be at your posts, elect in the name of the paper of the 6 August, ignore the voice of the left which is the voice of the people itself.

The State Duma will be composed of the most well to do elements of the opposition, which is separated by political privileges from the people and which is not immediately interested in the destruction of electoral law. In that time, when the right-wing of the liberal party ascends to power, and starts to join its roots with the roots of the tsarist bureaucracy you constitutional-democrats – Messrs. Petrunkevich, Rodichev and Miliukov – will be on the left-wing. Yes Mr. Professor. In the Duma you, to your horror, will appear on the extreme left because the rest will be even more conservative than you. You will make powerless oppositional noises, covering deals with reaction by pathetic liberal phraseology and deceiving the people with fictitious perspectives of a painless transition to democracy via bureaucracy and plutocracy.

By calling on the exploiting classes to utilize their political privileges presented to them and openly support the side of the tsarist electoral law, this legally formulated split between the propertied opposition and the peoples’ revolution, you at the same time cynically call for unity and thus spread dangerous confusion. What, dear sir, does this mean?

The tsarist government throws one end of the rope which it put on the neck of people to you and it has another end in its bloody hands. And here speaks the professor of history who should know how such experiments end for the people – calls from the right to accept the noose and calls from the left for unity. If, Mr. Professor, I wanted to be harsh then I would call this politically shameful!

History teaches its professors nothing. The mistakes and crimes of liberalism are international. You repeat what your predecessors did in your situation half a century ago. Like you the then leaders of Prussian liberalism thought that the royal word constructed those borders after which a return to the past was impossible. Then they worried very little about such vulgar things as an armed victory of the people and the subsequent disarming of the defeated by reaction. They clearly ignored the voice of the ‘left’. You know what this led to? To the fact that absolutism returned the lion’s share of its pre-March power to itself. This very quickly and very clearly came to light. At the end of the 1850s, ten years after 1848, the king treated parliament with great contempt. The parliament refused to grant him money and the king ignored parliamentary regulations and made use of the peoples’ resources as his own purse. Wise liberals, Professors of History, ethics and state law loudly and eloquently cried that this was a return to the past and, according to the constitutional parchment, was completely and utterly impossible. It goes without saying that here the people talked of moral or juridical ‘impossibility’. But absolutism laughed at this, correctly pointing out that, for it, material means were sufficient. And it was right.

The old and meek Vestnik Evropy has spoken against a boycott, using the example – and, profoundly, this is you – of the Prussian constitutional conflict at the end of the 1850s and the beginning of the 1860s when the Liberal Party did not abandon its pathetic posts in the king’s parliament.

The Prussian Liberal Party participated in its Duma, passed resolutions and in many words protested and demonstrated its weakness, compromised the ideas of representation and strengthened mass fictions about the parliamentary regime.

Absolutism kept all that it was necessary for it to keep and left for the representatives of the people all that it considered it was advantageous to leave. In occupying its posts and covering everything with the screen of a bright constitutional order, the Liberal Party only made this work easier for it.

1862 heard a voice of brave protest against the constitutional cretinism of the Liberal Party. This was the voice of Ferdinand Lassalle. [9] What did this voice demand? A boycott of the parliament. It said to the Liberals: you with your pseudo-constitutional trifles stand between the people and its enemies. You camouflage real relations. You hinder the accumulation of revolutionary fervour in the masses. You hinder the decisive liquidation of absolutism.

But the liberal bourgeoisie ‘bravely’ did not listen to the voice of the left (and for this they have always had sufficient bravery!), and remained at their posts, i.e., at the posts of treachery to freedom. Thus it is to the liberal bourgeoisie that Prussia and Prussified Germany are obliged for their semi-absolutist order.

Lassalle said then that, ‘All great political affairs consist in the expression of what is and begin with this. All political cowardice consists in silence and hiding what is.’ Wake up now, Mr. Professor, and turn your face to the people and with full voice say what is.

The State Duma is a premeditated contempt of peoples’ representation. These are peoples’ representatives without the people. The State Duma introduces the representatives of the propertied classes to the anteroom of the State Council. The State Duma is an organised deal of reaction with the propertied classes with the aim of strangling the peoples’ revolution. The granting of political rights from above is the right of the political deception of the people. This is a brief and exact expression of what really is.

Certainly you will not say this to the people. But we say it. If you would attempt to argue with us – not at liberal banquets but before the masses – then we, in our coarse, sharp revolutionary language would show you that we are able to be absolutely convincing and eloquent. We would show you this, Mr. Professor!

After the clear expression of what is you will be able to find what is more advantageous for yourself. You will be able to make a deal or reject one, to enter the anteroom or remain with the people on the streets. The party of the proletariat, the party of the revolution is not responsible to the masses for the behaviour of the Liberals. You are afraid to part company with the Duma because for you, in your dry fruitless desert around which Russian Liberalism has wandered for decades, this constitutional mirage appears to be real. You ask yourselves in mortal agony – If the Duma will not be called then where is the constitutional path? For you, the whole great dispute between the people and absolutism is reduced to Zemstvo Congresses, loyal delegates, constitutional addresses, rescripts, meetings and manifestoes. Not one word appears in your articles about the processes of the growth in the unification of, and revolutionary consciousness in, the masses, without whom the last steps of both liberalism and monarchism would be unthinkable. It appears to you that as soon as the manifesto was wrested from the tsar you were given the possibility to stand on the firm ground of this formal document; interpreting it, drawing your conclusions from it and defending them with all your personal means. You call for the defenders of freedom to be ‘on their guard’, and you think that henceforth the only guardpost for the defence of freedom is the State Duma. I do not know if the revolutionary movement existed for you before the 6th of August but, after this day, it will have ceased to exist for you.

The mass revolutionary movement – here, Mr. Professor, is the small point which you ignore in your political account. And in the meantime even after the 6th of August, as before this day, the revolutionary masses were and remain the only force for the democratic uprising. There is no other force, Mr. Professor. No matter how clever you are in your constitutional reasoning as future deputies, as soon as the revolution calms down the reaction will dismiss you, all of the 420 ‘representatives of the people’ as it happened in the past in Berlin, Frankfurt and Vienna because it called upon you with a certain purpose in mind. If the revolution is not calmed down then the bureaucracy will cling to you as a support. If you actually attempt to become such a support – and your situation forces you to this – then the victorious revolution will hurl you into the street, as it did with the Parliament of Louis Philippe.

You propose not to be confused by voices either from the right or from the left. Fortunately, Mr. Professor, you and your supporters are threatened with danger from both the right and the left.

The revolutionary masses are the natural force for the democratic uprising. What role is the State Duma, elected from the top with the silent connivance of below, able to play in the growth of the revolution? It will immediately act as a brake on the revolution or will attempt to become it. Legislative parties of bourgeois ‘order’ try to use it as an organizational base to crush the workers’ revolution and prepare the ground for a tsarist counter-revolution. We do not think that you, Mr. Miliukov, would be able to play any such leading role in the overthrow of the workers’ revolution by the tsarist-bourgeois bloc: for this, other people are required. You and your kind simply prepare the necessary conditions.

You want to attain a peaceful election, painting the State Duma as a transitional stage whereas those social forces, the representatives of which form its composition, will stand up to its defence by armed force as the final ideal.

You draw the next tasks as the logical deepening and strengthening of the constitution on the fact of its lawful basis; whereas the tasks consist of the seizing of the material conditions of power from the hands of absolutism by the victory of the revolution. You ignore the masses when the task is to give war slogans to them. You ignore the revolution when the task is to move it forward. How unhappy would Russian freedom be if it depended on you! But fortunately, freedom is the affair of the revolution and the revolution is the affair of the masses. You are connected to the masses only by vague feelings, but these feelings are of agonizing terror. You attempt to reject the voice of the left. But the masses listen to this voice, and this is our voice. We are here forming the feelings and the thoughts. We are here creating the revolutionary cadres. We teach the masses not to believe in you and not to go over to you. If the force of our logic does not convince you, then we will force you to bow before the logic of our force. Our support is in the revolutionary link of the events. Above your dates: the 6th of November, [10] the 6th of July [11] and the 6th of August, [12] stand our dates: the 9th of January and the 14th of July. [13] The revolution has still to say its final words. This mighty wide scope places absolutism under its knife – and this descends all the more lower and lower. Let the wise men of liberalism be aware of placing their hands under this sparkling steel blade. Let them be aware: otherwise they will be caught unawares by the final liberating blow ‘at their posts’!

August 1906

One year ago we wrote that we did not consider Mr. Miliukov to be a leader. Now we correct ourselves: if, in the ranks of the constitutional democrats, one can point to anybody as a leader then that person would be Mr. Miliukov. His party recognizes this in silence. He has no rival.

Prince E. Trubetskoi [14] attempted to oppose his authority to Miliukov’s authority and suffered a defeat. The prince displayed his reactionary sympathies too early, and too deeply revealed absolute disdain for the philosophical-idealist approach to all democratic obligations. He was forced to leave the party.

Mr. I. Petrunkevich, [15] either consciously or against his will, remained in the shade and came out of it into the light not so successfully as would have given him the right to be leader. In November of last year, at the Zemstvo Congress in Moscow, Mr. Petrunkevich declared himself to be a revolutionary and held his hand out to the extreme parties. Suddenly events took an unexpected turn. At precisely this point Count Witte [16] ignored the Congress and had private negotiations with Petrunkevich by telegraph. The Zemstvo Congress was going too quickly to accommodate the minister, and Count Witte’s personal telegram to the revolutionary from Tver was suddenly published in the Moscow press. Was this done so that the Congress would be pushed to the right? This, at least, appeared to be the case. But Mr. Petrunkevich dismissed all suspicion: the appearance of the telegram appeared to be the result of indiscretion on the part of one of his political friends. It is well known that profound diplomats often have indiscreet friends and that their indiscretion sometimes renders I completely invaluable service. In the State Duma Mr. Petrunkevich made his debut by calling for an amnesty and completed his role several days before the Duma’s dismissal by introducing proposals, in the name of the Constitutional-Democrat Party, against the moderate project of the labour group and against the even more moderate project of the agrarian commission, and calling for a third project, immoderate in its cowardice, of directing a manifesto at the peasantry. Moreover, this ‘revolutionary’ from Tver attacked the Labour Group and gave grounds for his political opponents to believe that this ungrateful way out was taken by Petrunkevich with the express intention of being able to present himself in Peterhof from the best position possible. Whether, in the actions of this old Tver leader, we see a little cunning or a large amount of innocence he, in both cases, was doomed to the secondary role.

Mr. Rodichev? [17] But, without doubt, he himself does not consider himself to be a leader. This is the inexhaustible party orator. In his speeches there are often wonderful turns of phrase and even pathos. However, there is absolutely nothing of content in them. This is especially true in the political sense for they fall only into the destiny of those who know strongly what they want. Certainly, Mr. Rodichev is not a leader. He, for sure, is easily comforted in this by considerations of himself as a tribune.

Less than all others is Mr. Struve [18] able to lay claim to the role of party leader. For the past six months he has energetically, but without success, argued with indifferent readers. There is obviously a limit beyond which the politically profane and morally corrupt do not find a sympathetic response. Mr. Struve has already crossed this limit. In his political psychology not one living place remains: no principles which would be dear to him and no obligations which would have power over him. This is why he himself is not able to be ‘dear’ to anybody and why he is not able to have power over anybody.

Already this one method of ruling out has led us to the conclusion that only one leader exists, and that this leader is Mr. Miliukov. He is the editor of the central party organ, the inspiration of the Central Committee, the secret instructor of the Duma fraction, in a word the leader ...

What makes Mr. Miliukov the leader of this ill-assorted coalition which considered and, perhaps, to this day considers itself to be the most powerful political party in Russia? Indeed, what makes Mr. Miliukov the leader? He has neither a clear understanding of the path of revolutionary development nor a clear plan of action. What exactly is he good at? His one and only ability is to teach his party to frustrate the revolution, to delay answering the questions posed by it and by sitting out its events. The Parliamentary regime in Russia was inevitable. In the last analysis it will be established. All tasks consist only in patiently waiting for its establishment. In the resolution of these tasks Mr. Miliukov was indispensable.

The so-called Constitutional-Democratic Party is made up of different social elements which are caught at different moments of their political development. Since further self-determination, separate layers and groups inevitably carry disintegration into the party, which unites civilians, petty-bourgeoisie, the intelligentsia and the well-to-do peasantry; since questions of tactics all the more promote political independence then, for sure, the feeling for party self-preservation compels the Cadets to adopt the tactics of the abstention from tactics. Mr. Miliukov is able to formulate this abstention like nobody else. If such a skill makes a leader then Mr. Miliukov, without doubt, is a political leader. Individual leaders of such types as Mr. Miliukov have a preference for backstage politics: this is the way of subtle inter-party diplomacy of personal alliances and a chess-like approach with which abstention from practice is formulated. Their task is not to utilize a revolutionary situation but to protect their party from a revolutionary situation. It seems to them that one can find an exit from all contradictions and for this one needs only to correctly formulate the question. For them the art of preserving party unity leads to the art of composing resolutions which eliminate disagreements. For them political questions are decided by words and not otherwise. Although they love to contrast their ‘practical’ politics to the revolutionary doctrinaires of the Social-Democrats verbosity and waffle are, in actual fact, the essence of their political lexicon. If there arose a conflict on the question: State Duma or Constituent Assembly?, they would resolve it thus: State Duma with constitutional functions. On the question of one or two chambers one should give a free vote to all party members. Mr. Miliukov, to repeat, is inexhaustible in such combinations and it is precisely this which makes him a leader.

But politics would be a contemptible art if one could reduce it to the art of words. Fortunately this is not the case. Against such a politics speaks the most terrible enemy: facts. Revolutionary events tare more impatient than revolutionary parties. In a day or an hour they destroy all the delicate work which has gone on for months. They force into collision the strongest of bodies, the names of which have been artificially united in programme resolutions. They put the sign of death on yesterday’s political leaders. In Miliukov’s party there are elements which move toward the revolution and elements which move away from it – not so much in the party but from under the party. Mr. Miliukov dominates, and will continue to dominate, as long as the leaders’ task consists in hiding the contradictory directions of development from the two sections of the party. But now, after the failure of tactics of peaceful renewal through the Duma, the revolution should develop this contradiction to its fullest extent. We will not have to wait long for this to occur.

One of the leading historians of Russian culture, in his essay on the development of schism, illustrates one of its branches in the following way:

This direction (Popovshchina) shared the common fate of all middle directions. The development of such a direction is possible only in the direction of the extremes contained in it. Being a compromise between the Orthodox and the non-Popovshchina, the Popovshchina could only approach the State church or the more extreme party of schism. But rapprochement with the ruling state church was hindered ... above all by the attitude of the clerical and secular elite to schism. Reconciliations under the present conditions was not possible on conditions which would be satisfactory to both sides and, therefore, would not be sincere ... as far as non-Popovshchina was concerned this would have been admissible only to the most daring. Therefore continuous oscillation between two extremes and not stopping on either of them, Popovshchina was doomed to stew in its own juice of old ideas. Any type of serious recognition of the internal development would mean that one would not be able to introduce one significant change, because the result of such development immediately wanders from the framework of this intermediary direction to one or the other side. [19]

This characterisation of Popovshchina covers, according to the author himself, all middle directions and did not represent anything original. And if we find it interesting to bring it to attention then it: would be for the single reason that the author of these lines was none other than Mr. Miliukov himself. We do not know what conclusions Miliukov drew from this for his own political position. But in its entirety – and I don’t think Mr. Miliukov has sufficient resolution to refute this – he paints himself by his own merciless characterisation of all ‘intermediate directions’.

Being a compromise between the monarchy and democracy, the privileged classes and the people Mr. Miliukov’s party would only be able to approach either the state power or a more extreme revolutionary party. But the approach towards state power is hindered above all by its attitude to the opposition to state power itself. What concerns the approach towards revolution is only attractive for the more decisive. In such a way, the perpetual turning between two extremes – between the oppression of the right and the ‘anarchy’ of the left – while not deciding to side with either of them, is Russian monarchical liberalism doomed to exist in the vicious circle of outdated political ideas. Internal development is impossible for this party since the results of such development quickly lead to one or another side beyond the limits of an intermediary position. And where internal development is impossible there is an inevitable internal decomposition. In the not too distant future Mr. Miliukov will have the pleasure of seeing the correctness of his historical-cultural approach in the fate of his own party. What will happen to him, to his art as a political leader and his archive of resolutions which mean all and nothing, we dare not foretell.


L. Trotskii
August 1906



Ian D. Thatcher would like to thank Tanya Frisby and James D. White of ISEES for making invaluable suggestions on the translation.

1. L. Trotsky, My Life (Harmondsworth 1970), pp. 230 & 294.

2. L. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution (London 1977), p. 1231.

3. L. Trotsky, Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1932 (New York 1973), p. 123.

4. Ibid., p. 207.

5. For a fuller analysis of the contents of the Bulygin Constitution and its implications see A. Ascher, The Revolution of 1905. Russia in Disarray (Stanford, CA 1988), pp. 179–182.

6. I. Deutscher, The Prophet Armed (Oxford 1954), p. 120. See pp. 120–22 for Deutscher’s account of the letter.

7. S.N. Syromiatnikov (b.1860). A journalist who worked for Nedelia and Novoae vremia. In the notes to Volume 2 of Trotskii’s Sochineniia he is described as a ‘strong reactionary’ ( Nasha pervaia revoliutsiia, Moscow 1925, Pt. 1, p. 581).

8. Trotskii is referring to the article Zametki pisatelia, published in Slovo, 7 Aug. 1905.

9. Ferdinand Lassalle (1825–1864). A leading figure in the German workers’ movement. Member of the All-German Workers’ Union and correspondent of Marx and Engels.

10. Zemstvo Congress. [L.T.]

11. Zemstvo Deputies see the tsar. [L.T.]

12. Publication of the Bulygin Rescript. [L.T.]

13. The uprising of the Potemkin Tavricheskii. [L.T.]

14. Prince E. Trubetskoi (1863–1920): Liberal Professor of legal philosophy at Moscow University. He was a member of the Constitutional-Democratic Party until 1906.

15. I. Petrunkevich (1884–1928): One of the founders of the Constitutional-Democratic Party and editor of the newspaper Rech.

16. S. Witte (1849–1915): Russian Minister of Finance from 1892–1903. Headed the Council of Ministers from October 1905. However, he proved to be too ‘left’ for the tsar and too ‘right’ for the liberals. He resigned in April 1906 and wrote his memoirs between 1907 and 1912.

17. G. Rodichev: One of the founders of the Constitutional-Democratic Party and a member of its Central Committee. Rodichev represented the Constitutional-Democrats in all four Dumas.

18. P.B. Struve (1870–1944). Russian economist, philosopher, historian and publicist. In 1898 he was a member of the Central Committee of the RSDRP. However, he became disillusioned with Marxism and left the Social-Democratic Party. In 1905 he became a member of the Central Committee of the Constitutional-Democratic Party.

19. Trotskii is here quoting from Miliukov’s Ocherki po istorii russkoi kul’tury. This went through many different editions. I have found a slightly different version of this text in the Paris 1931 edition, Vol. 2, Pt. 1, p. 70.

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Last updated on: 26.3.2013