A Replete Bourgeoisie and a Craving Bourgeoisie
|Written||27 September 1905|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 9, pages 316-322.
Le Temps, one of the most influential organs of the French conservative bourgeoisie, is waging a most desperate campaign against socialism, and it is a rare day on which one fails to see in its columns the names of Marx, Bebel, Guesde and Jaurès, accompanied by the most vicious comment and vituperation. Le Temps cannot speak of socialism without trembling with rage.
The newspaper is following what well-intentioned Europeans call the Russian “crisis”, with the utmost attention, and never fails to offer edifying counsel to la nation amie et alliée—the “friendly and allied nation”. Thus on the present occasion, too, it devotes its leading article to the recent Zemstvo Congress. It recalls the preceding July Congress and cannot refrain even in retrospect from expressing its dissatisfaction. It was, you see, “a spectacle of utter incoherence of ideas and of complete incertitude of intention”; the Bulygin scheme was already known, but the delegates nevertheless confined themselves to “violent speeches”, without being able to come to a decision on the question of boycott or participation. The organ of the French ruling bourgeoisie even reminds the Zemstvo delegates with irritation that they had no mandates!
On the contrary, what a smile of satisfaction has now come over the face of the bourgeois who is replete with political power! How graciously he hastens to shake the noble hand of his confrère who as yet is only craving for political power, but who is already revealing his “maturity”! The boycott has been rejected, and now nothing more is being said about the absence of mandates. “The decision of the Zemstvo delegates,” says Le Temps, “does them credit.... It shows that the political education of the most enlightened elements of the Russian people is progressing, and that they are abandoning vague plans of political prestidigitation, to enter boldly on the path of necessary evolution.”
The bourgeois who is replete with political power and who has experience of what real victories of the people, the workers and peasants, lead to in revolutions, has no hesitation in declaring the September Congress of the liberal land lords and merchants a victory of evolution over revolution.
He praises the “moderation” of the Congress. He points with evident satisfaction to the rejection of the resolutions on “parcelling up the land” and on suffrage for women. “The wisdom and moderation of these decisions clearly indicate that the opinions of the extreme parties did not prevail at this Congress. The programme agreed on is sufficiently democratic to disarm the revolutionaries. Since the Zemstvo Congress expects to put its plans into effect solely by lawful means, its programme may also rally those reformists whom personal issues will not cut off from the rest of the Congress.
The replete bourgeois slaps the craving bourgeois encouragingly on the shoulder—to have advanced a programme “sufficiently democratic” to throw dust into people’s eyes and disarm the revolutionaries, and have taken the path of legality, that is in plain and straightforward language to have come to terms with the Trepovs and Romanovs—that is true statesman-like wisdom.
That the hopes which the shrewd bourgeois places in simple minded revolutionaries are not quite groundless has been proved by our wiseacres of the new Iskra. They have dropped the reins and dashed into a trap; they are eagerly proposing to exact democratic pledges from the moderate bourgeois, who are now prepared heart and soul to promise anything and to pledge themselves to anything. It is not only in struggle between hostile parties, but even in the struggle within the socialist parties (as we found from experience after the Second Congress) that all promises go by the board, once the more or less substantial interests of the contending parties are involved. As the English saying goes—promises like pie-crust are leaven to be broken.
What did Iskra’s tactics with regard to the Duma boil down to? To the ideological and tactical disarmament of the revolutionaries. The wiseacres of the opportunist Iskra worked for this disarmament by denouncing the idea of an active boycott, substituting (fully in the spirit of Novoye Vremya, and almost in the same terms) a passive boycott for an active, preaching confidence and trustfulness in the Milyukovs and Stakhoviches who now embrace each other, and replacing the revolutionary slogan of insurrection with Osvobozhdeniye’s bourgeois twaddle, such as the “revolutionary self-government of citizens
It is only the blind who can still fail to see what a swamp Iskra has floundered into. In the illegal press it is completely isolated, with only Osvobozhdeniye on its side. The Bund, which even Martov and Axelrod will not suspect of any liking for the “Vperyod arsenal”, has come out resolutely for an active boycott. In the legal press all the scoundrels and all the moderate liberals have united against the radical bourgeois who have voiced sympathy with the boycott and are disposed towards the peasantry in a most friendly way.
Well, did Lenin tell any falsehood when, in analysing the new-Iskra resolutions, he said in his Two Tactics that “Iskra” is descending to the level of the liberal landlords, while Proletary is endeavouring to raise the level of the revolutionary peasants?
We have mentioned Novoye Vremya. Both that reptile of an organ and Moskovskiye Vedomosti are waging a desperate struggle against the idea of a boycott, thereby revealing to all and sundry the Duma’s actual political significance. As a sample, here is a typical outburst by Novoye Vremya, which we shall dwell on the more readily as it is shedding new light on the abysmal bourgeois vileness displayed by even such a “respectable” liberal organ as Russkiye Vedomosti.
Mr. Yollos, its well-known Berlin correspondent, deals with the Jena Congress in No. 247. To begin with, his philistine soul rejoices at the fact that there has appeared such a kind-hearted and fair-minded bourgeois liberal, the wealthy Abbe, who has made to the city of Jena the gift of a People’s House, in which all parties, including even the Social-Democrats, are free to meet. And Mr. Yollos draws the moral: “One can benefit the people outside definite party bounds too.” That, of course, is true. But what are we to say of a writer, who, at a time of desperate party struggle in Russia, indulges in praise of non-partisanship? Doesn’t Mr. Yollos really understand that this is a piece of the worst political tactlessness, since he is thereby playing into the hands of Novoye Vremya? The true meaning of this philistine delight in non-partisanship will, however, become apparent to the reader from the following statement by Mr. Yollos: “Needless to say there are political conditions under which it is useful for the time being to keep ultimate aims to oneself, and to bear in mind the immediate aims common to socialism and to liberalism.”
Now that is frank! Thank you, Mr. Yollos, for at least being explicit! It remains for us, whenever addressing the workers, to make use of such declaration at all times and on all occasions to show up the bourgeois nature of Russian liberalism, and to make clear to the workers the need for an independent party of the proletariat, one that is undeviatingly hostile to the bourgeoisie, even the most liberal.
But all these tirades by our “democrat” are nothing compared with what is to come. Mr. Yollos does not confine him self to advising the proletariat “to keep its ultimate aims to itself for the time being”, i.e., renounce socialism. No, he also advises renouncing the idea of bringing the present political revolution to its consummation. Mr. Yollos cites a speech by Bebel and plays up the passage in which Bebel expresses doubt as to whether we can succeed in transforming Russia into a civilised state “so soon”, while at the same time declaring that the old autocratic regime will never return, and “the old Russia is no longer possible”. Concerning this passage Mr. Yollos writes the following: “I do not consider Bebel an authority on Russian affairs, but I must observe that in this part of his speech he differs favourably from Kautsky and several other doctrinaires who recommend Revolution in Permanenz (uninterrupted revolution). As a clever man and politician who realises what concrete forms a state of uninterrupted anarchy assumes in the life of a nation, Bebel sees progress primarily in the promotion of cultural aims, and his words make it quite clear that he draws no line of demarcation and certainly erects no barriers between the Russian intelligentsia and the Russian proletariat, at any rate before the elementary rights of man have been secured.”
First of all this is a libel on Bebel, a libel fully in the style of Novoye Vremya. Bebel always and unequivocally draws a “line of demarcation” between bourgeois and proletarian democratism; Mr. Yollos cannot be ignorant of that. Bebel distinguishes in no uncertain fashion between the bourgeois intelligentsia and the Social-Democratic intelligentsia. To assure the Russian reader that Bebel, while fighting for “culture”, ever hushes up the mendacity and treachery of the bourgeois democrats on the one hand, and the socialist aims of the working class on the other, means slandering in the grossest manner the leader of revolutionary Social-Democracy in Germany.
Secondly, it does not at all follow from Bebel’s speech that he regards the Russian revolution otherwise than Kautsky. The “favourable difference” in this respect between Bebel and Kautsky is a sheer fabrication by Mr. Yollos, who has extracted and distorted a single passage in Bebel’s speech, while maintaining silence about Bebel’s numerous declarations fully in favour of the Russian revolution and its decisive victory.
Thirdly—and for us this is the most interesting feature of the stand taken by Russkiye Vedomosti—Mr. Yollos’s outburst shows that he is a/raid of a decisive victory of the revolution in Russia. Mr. Yollos says that “uninterrupted revolution” is “uninterrupted anarchy”. To say that means saying that revolution is sedition; to say that means becoming a traitor to the revolution. And let not the Osvobozhdeniye diplomatists, who are so fond of asserting that they have no enemies on their left, try to tell us that this is only an accidental slip on the part of Russkiye Vedomosti. That is not true. It is an expression of the most profound sentiments and the most deep-rooted interests of the liberal landlord and the liberal manufacturer. It is the same thing as the statement made by Mr. Vinogradov, who is calling for a struggle to prevent the Russian revolution from entering on the path of 1789. It is the same as the servility of Mr. Trubetskoi, who told the tsar that he disapproved of sedition. This is no slip. It is the sole truthful statement in words on the count less disgraceful deeds of our bourgeois democrats, who are wearied of “uninterrupted anarchy”, are beginning to long for law and order, are already tired of “fighting” .(even though they never did any fighting), and already recoil from revolution at the mere sight of workers and peasants actually rising for actual battle, eager to strike blows, and not receive them. The bourgeois democrats are prepared to wink at the misdeeds of the Trepovs and the slaughter of unarmed people; they are not afraid of that, but of “anarchy” of a quite different kind, when power will no longer be wielded by Trepov or by Petrunkevich and Rodichev, and the uprising of the peasants and workers will be victorious. The bourgeois democrats rally to the Duma idea so eagerly for the very reason that they see in it an earnest of the betrayal of the revolution, an earnest of the prevention of the complete victory of the revolution—that terrible “uninterrupted anarchy”.
Novoye Vremya provides evidence of the fact that our analysis of the liberals’ psychology is a faithful one. These dyed-in-the-wool lackeys of the Trepovs took immediate note of Russkiye Vedomosti’s baseness and hastened to heartily embrace their confrères. It is precisely this lie of Mr. Yollos’s about Bebel “differing favourably” from Kautsky that Novoye Vremya of September 13 (26) cites approvingly, remarking in its turn:
“Thus, our radical ‘absentees’ will have to exclude Bebel too from the number of their allies.”
This is a perfectly legitimate conclusion. The professional Novoye Vremya traitors have correctly appraised the sum and substance of the “slip” made by Russkiye Vedomosti. Morever, Novoye Vremya, that past master of politics, at once drew a conclusion with regard to the Duma. Although Mr. Yollos did not say a word about Bebel’s views on the boycott, Novoye Vremya nevertheless labelled as “absentees” those in favour of the boycott. Novoye Vremya supplemented the libel against Bebel with a libel against the “radicals”, expressing, however, the absolutely correct opinion that the “radical absentees’” tactics are governed by the idea of the complete victory of the revolution, the idea of uninterrupted revolution, whereas the pro-Duma liberals are prompted by the fear of “uninterrupted anarchy”. Novoye Vremya is right. Trepov’s lackeys were fully justified in catching Mr. Yollos in the act and telling him: If you do not want “uninterrupted anarchy” then it follows that you are my ally, and no democratic bombast will dissuade me of this. Ours is a minor family quarrel—against the “doctrinaires”, the supporters of “uninterrupted anarchy”, however, we shall be at one!
Will Iskra fail to realise even now that in reproaching the boycott supporters with abstention, i.e., absenteeism, it was talking after the Novoye Vremya fashion? Can it fail to realise that this concurrence of its slogans with those of Novoye Vremya proves that there is something fundamentally false in its stand?
The replete European bourgeoisie lauds the moderation of the Russian bourgeoisie, which is craving for power. Trepov’s lackeys laud Mr. Yollos of Russkiye Vedomosti for censuring the idea of “uninterrupted anarchy”. The Novoye Vremya and new-Iskra gentry scoff at “absenteeism”....
- This phrase is in English in the original.—Ed.
- Novaye Vremya (New Times)—a newspaper published in St. Peters burg from 1868 to October 1917. Moderately liberal at the outset, it became, after 1876, the organ of reactionary circles of the nobility and the bureaucracy. The paper was hostile not only to the revolutionary movement, but even to the liberal-bourgeois. Following 1905 it became an organ of the Black Hundreds. Lenin called Novoye Vremya the acme of venality in the press.