“Don't Gaze Up, Gaze Down!”
|Written||14 June 1906|
Published in Vperyod, No. 7, June 2, 1906. Published according to the newspaper text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 505-507.
This is what Mr. I. Zhilkin says in today’s issue of the Left-Cadet Nasha Zhizn. He sadly notes the “glow of self-satisfaction” on the faces of the Cadets. He is moved to protest by Mr. Milyukov’s delighted statement that “the Cadets are dissociating themselves from the extreme Left”. He scoffs at the “unusual political wisdom” of the Cadets, who admit that the situation is “hopeless” and at the same time talk boastfully about boldly steering the ship of state into the fairway.
Let us examine these reflections, for they concern the fundamental question in the present political situation. We think it particularly important to emphasise that events are compelling even those who totally disagree with the views of the Left Social-Democrats, and are most vehemently opposing us, to appraise the situation correctly.
According to rumours emanating from the Russian reactionaries’ club in Paris, “all wavering in Peterhof has ceased. Goremykin has been given a free hand”, i.e., freedom to make short work of the Duma. And Nasha Zhizn, which does not share the Bolsheviks’ proclivity to paint everything in gloomy colours, says: “We have every reason to believe that these rumours are trustworthy....” “The fight is becoming more intense.... He who raises the sword shall perish by the sword,” says the leading article in this newspaper in conclusion. And Mr. I. Zhilkin writes: “Are there many people in Russia who believe in a peaceful, victorious out come of parliamentary work? One must be a romantic, a visionary, an idealist, to be carried away by such rosy dreams.” And in the next column Mr. V. Khizhnyakov writes: “We cannot avoid revolutionary storms—this must be admitted. The Duma is powerless to turn the movement to the peaceful path, for it lacks the power to improve the conditions of life of the people, and without such a power there is no other road but that of revolution. One is already conscious of an ever-growing feeling of discontent, of a rap idly waning faith in the almighty power of the Duma and giving way to despair [lack of faith in the Duma, like lack of faith in God, is by no means an indication of “despair”]. The atmosphere is gradually becoming electrified: some times we hear the distant roll of thunder; it will not be very long, perhaps, before the storm bursts.”
This is said by people whose opinion we particularly value because of their preconceived hostility to revolutionary Social-Democracy. Events have compelled these people to repeat the very propositions on which we have always insisted, and for which the liberal bourgeoisie has always denounced, abused and reviled us, inventing a heap of scandal, lies and slander about the “Bolsheviks”.
“Don’t gaze up, gaze down!” This means that in view of the objective historical conditions, which do not depend upon our will, the parliamentary struggle cannot become the main form of the liberation movement in Russia at the present time. Needless to say, it is not a matter of “repudiating” this form of struggle, not a matter of rejecting it. The fact is that, owing to the course of events, the main and decisive struggle is advancing in another arena. The liberal bourgeoisie has on innumerable occasions slanderously stated that we Bolsheviks “are recklessly pushing the people towards extreme measures” (Rech, No. 88). But, gentlemen, was it really we who “pushed” Zhilkin, Khizhnyakov and the leader-writer of Nasha Zhizn? Was it really we who “pushed” the Kursk and Poltava soldiers, the Kiev, Saratov and other peasants?
We have “pushed” and roused those whose faces were always “glowing with self-satisfaction”. We have said that the form of the struggle for liberation does not depend upon our will, that we must soberly and fearlessly look in the face of reality, which precludes the “path” that even Nasha Zhizn now admits is closed. We have said that socialists cannot and must not sacrifice the fundamental interests of democracy and of socialism for the sake of momentary successes; that it is their duty to tell the masses the bitter truth that the Cadets are unreliable, that the Duma is powerless and that revolutionary storms are inevitable. If, having been enchanted by the oratory of the Cadets at election meetings, the masses do not understand us today, and if, carried away with joy in the first days of the first Russian parliament, they do not understand us tomorrow, the day after tomorrow they will be convinced that we are right. Events will make them see that the revolutionary Social-Democratic Party is not tempted by tawdry successes, that it calls upon them firmly and consistently to “gaze” in the very direction where the struggle is inevitably developing that will decide the fate of genuine (and not Cadet) people’s freedom.
Our revolution is the great Russian revolution precisely because it has roused vast masses of the people to participation in making history. Class contradictions among these masses are still far from having revealed themselves in full measure. Political parties are only just taking shape. Therefore it is not within our power either to direct the masses or restrain them to any great extent. But we can, after studying the actual situation and the relations between classes, foresee the inevitable trend of their historic activities, the main forms of their movement. We must spread our socialist knowledge among the masses as widely as possible, undaunted by the fact that truth is often very bitter, and not easily discernible beneath the tinsel of fashionable political labels or gaudy political institutions: and not allowing ourselves to be enchanted by beautiful fiction. We shall do our duty if we do everything to enlighten the masses and prepare them for forms of the movement which, though imperceptible to the superficial observer, nevertheless, inexorably follow from the whole economic and political situation in the country. We shall fail in our duty if we only gaze “up”, and miss what is going on, growing, approaching and impending below.