A New Upswing
|Written||6 May 1906|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 386-391.
The opening of the Duma sessions has coincided with the outbreak of Black-Hundred riots. The first steps on the path of “peaceful parliamentarism”, a path which caused the Cadets and all philistines in politics to go into raptures and tears of joy, have coincided with the most brutal, most direct and immediate manifestations of civil war. The introduction of the “constitutional” method of deciding affairs of state, the method of ballot-papers and the counting of votes, has coincided with outbreaks of the most primitive violence, with the settlement of affairs of state by exterminating dissidents, by annihilating political opponents (literally annihilating by fire and sword).
Is this a chance coincidence? Of course not. And it would be inadequate as an explanation to say that the police is organising riots for provocative purposes, for the purpose of discrediting the Duma. Of course, there cannot be the shadow of a doubt that the police is directly involved. Of course, the police is organising, inciting and provoking. All this is true. In a war which the bureaucracy is waging, virtually for its very existence, its servants and supporters literally stick at nothing. But why do they have to resort to such methods of struggle, and on such a large scale, precisely at the present time? This question is worth considering, in order to avoid ascribing whole periods of revolutionary development to the exceptional viciousness, exceptional blood thirstiness and exceptional bestiality of the combatants.
We are witnessing the beginning of a social revival. The unemployed movement, the May Day demonstrations, the growing unrest among the peasantry and in the armed forces, the meetings, the press, the unions, are all unambiguous indications of this revival. In a matter of days the revival of the broad popular movement has already outstripped the revival that was expressed in the victory of the Cadets and of the “Left” in general at the elections. The Cadets have already fallen behind. The Cadet Duma is already fading—it is withering before it has had time to blossom. This withering of our barren petty-bourgeois flowers, this consternation of the Cadets, is most characteristically expressed, among other things, in an article by Mr. D. Protopopov (a Cadet member of the State Duma) in yesterday’s issue of Duma. Mr. Protopopov says, complaining and wailing: “The country expects from the State Duma the radical and immediate solution of a number of extremely intricate problems and, above all, the equally immediate practical introduction of the expected reforms.” But have a heart, my dear fellow-citizens— wails this Cadet. We have neither a “magician’s wand”, nor complete power” (the Cadet forgets to add that neither does the programme, i.e., the political ideal, of the Cadets, include complete power for the people). The State Duma is not the Convention. And from the lips of this Cadet comes the matchless, almost touching admission of a terrified philistine: “Only such a Duma-Convention could satisfy the demands of the bulk of the nation.” What is true is true. “The bulk”, perhaps the whole mass of the workers and peasants, are demanding a Convention, and all they get is—a Cadet Duma. Poor, poor Cadets! Could they have anticipated that they would be so quickly and so hopelessly overtaken by the rising tide?
And now this great tide is the material basis of the fact that the struggle is becoming extraordinarily acute, that peaceful parliamentarism” is fading and slipping into the background, and that playing at a constitution is giving way to the settlement of affairs of state by force. The result is the resumption of the October uprising, but on a much wider basis, on a much greater scale, with the masses of the peasantry and the working class more politically conscious and (thanks to what they passed through in the period of October-December) with incomparably more political experience. In October the combatant forces were equally balanced. The old autocracy proved to be no longer strong enough to govern the country. The people were not yet strong enough to secure complete power that would ensure complete freedom. The Manifesto of October 17 was the juridical expression of this equilibrium of forces. But this equilibrium, which compelled the old regime to make a concession, forced it in to recognising freedom on paper, merely signified a temporary halt, but not the cessation of the struggle. In October and November it was said that our government had “gone on strike”, that it had been “standing rigid” like a setter over the revolution, that it had paused as it waited for the opportune moment, and had plunged into a desperate battle which ended in its victory. Political philistines, narrow-mind ed as usual, with the timidity and flabby, Pharisaical “idealism” that is characteristic of them, expostulated, wept, and voiced their indignation at the “immorality” of the government’s “strike”, of its standing rigid like a setter over the revolution. Their indignation was totally out of place. “In war as in war.” In every war, when the belligerents’ forces are equally balanced, they pause, gather strength, recuperate, assimilate the experience they have obtained, make preparations, and then plunge into the next battle. This is what happened in the case of the armies of Kuropatkin and Oyama. So it has been, and always will be, in any great civil war. “In war as in war.”
But civil war differs from ordinary war by its immeasurably greater complexity, by the fact that the belligerents are unknown and unknowable—because of desertions from one camp to another (Octobrists go over to the side of the government, a section of the armed forces go over to the side of the people), and because it is impossible to draw a hard and fast line between “combatants” and “non-combatants”. When the government “goes on strike”, when the police pauses waiting and “stands rigid”, the war goes on just the same, precisely because it is a civil war, because among the population itself there are those who are interested in defending the old regime and those who are fighting for freedom. That is why the present upswing, which has equalised the belligerent forces, is also with inexorable necessity weakening the government, compelling it to “go on strike”, to “stand rigid over the revolution” again to a certain extent, and on the other hand, is leading to a resumption of the October, November and December forms of struggle. Whoever wants to take a conscious stand on the great events unfolding before us, whoever wants to learn from the revolution, must realise that these forms of struggle are inevitable, and must think out the tasks that these forms of struggle impose upon us.
The Cadets, intoxicated with their election victories, have written reams of paper about Russia having taken the path of parliamentarism. The Social-Democrats in the Right wing of our Party have allowed themselves to be carried away by the general stream. At the Unity Congress of the Party, although they were the victors, and in spite of the protests of the Left Social-Democrats, they withdrew their resolution on the upswing of the revolution, on the main forms of the movement at the present time, and on the tasks of the proletariat. They behaved in this respect like Mr. Milyukov who, at the last congress of the Constitutional-Democratic Party, touched on the question whether the people were not more revolutionary than the Duma, whether a revolutionary struggle in the narrow sense of the word was not inevitable, but at once timidly withdrew the question from discussion. It was natural for a Cadet to evade such an issue; but it is unseemly for Social-Democrats to do so, and they are already paying the penalty for this. Forms of struggle are already arising, with elemental force, that are pushing the Duma into the background and are bringing nearer another October and another December, whether we like it or not.
At the Party Congress, a Right Social-Democrat scoffed at the resolution of the Left Social-Democrats which openly and straightforwardly recognised as the “main form of the movement”, not the toy-constitutional, but the October-December form, i.e., the action of the broad masses, who directly sweep away the old laws and the old instruments of authority, and make use of a new authority, created in the very course of the struggle, as a weapon for winning freedom. There is no evidence of these forms of struggle, exclaimed this Right Social-Democratic speaker. They do not exist, they are the figment of the imagination of our Lefts, those visionaries, those rebels, those anarchists. “Take off your Cadet spectacles!”—we retorted to this comrade at the Congress. You will then see something more than what is taking place on the surface. You will see that it is not the Duma struggle that is the main struggle, you will realise that objective conditions are making the extra-Duma forms of the move ment inevitable, are making them the main, vital, fundamental and decisive forms.
A week or two has passed since these debates took place at the Congress. And already the revolution is knocking the Cadet spectacles off the noses not only of the Right Social-Democrats, but also of the broad masses of the people. The Duma is already fading, constitutional illusions are being dispelled. The October-December forms of struggle, which only yesterday short-sighted people, and those who yield to the moods of the moment, refused to see, are already approaching. And the Social-Democrats will be failing in their duty to the proletariat if they do not realise that these forms of struggle must inevitably grow and develop, if they do not fully explain to the masses the tasks which the situation is calling forth, and which will soon confront them. The Social-Democrats will prove unworthy of the class they represent if they attempt to evade the study and appraisal of these forms by uttering disparaging catchwords like “rebelliousness” and “Narodnaya Volya-ism” that are so often heard from the Right wing of our Party. The tide is rising spontaneously, and we must do all in our power to bring more consciousness and organisation into this upsurge than we were able to do in October and December.
We must not force the pace of events. It is not in our interest to hasten an explosion at present. There can be no doubt about that. This is the lesson we must learn from the experience of the end of 1905.But this is only a small part of our task:
it is a purely negative definition of our tactics. Whoever con fines himself to this aspect of the matter, whoever exalts this negative task to something positive, is bound to slide into the role of a bourgeois advocate of compromise between people’s freedom and the autocracy.
The party of the working class has an extremely serious, urgent and fundamental task to fulfil. We must concentrate all our plans, all our efforts, all our propaganda, agitation, organisation and immediate practical work on ensuring that the proletariat and the peasantry are better prepared for the new, decisive struggle. We cannot will the choice of the forms of this struggle: they are being determined with iron necessity by the historical development of the Russian revolution. We already know from experience what the government’s “standing rigid” means, and what the growing agitation among the masses over the rapidly maturing general political crisis means. We know with what dizzying rapidity the October struggle grew, and how inevitably it developed into the December struggle. Therefore let everybody be at his post. Nobody can forecast the moment when things will. reach their climax; nobody knows in what order and in what combination the December and October forms of the move ment will finally develop. But they are already beginning to develop. The organs of this movement are already springing up. On the solidarity, class-consciousness, self-control and resolution of the advanced class depends in large measure, if not entirely, the outcome of the great revolution.
- The burning down of the People’s House at Vologda by a mob instigated by the police, and the beating up of demonstrators at Simbirsk are the outstanding cases of riots during the past few days.—Lenin