Concerning an Article Published in the Organ of the Bund
|Written||20 December 1906|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 376-382.
As our journal is illegal, we are unable to follow at all regularly the Social-Democratic newspapers that are published in Russia in languages other than Russian. And yet, unless close and constant contact is maintained between the Social-Democrats of all nationalities in Russia, our Party cannot become a real All-Russian Party.
Therefore, we earnestly request all comrades who know Lettish, Finnish, Polish, Yiddish, Armenian, Georgian or other languages, and who receive Social-Democratic newspapers in these languages, to help us to keep Russian readers informed about the state of the Social-Democratic movement and the views of the non-Russian Social-Democrats on tactics. This assistance could take the form, not only of reviews of Social-Democratic literature on a particular question (like the articles in Proletary on the controversy between the Polish Social-Democrats and the Polish Socialist Party, and on the Lettish view of guerrilla warfare), but also of translations of articles, or even of outstanding passages from an article.
Recently, a comrade sent us a translation of an article entitled “A Platform for the Election Campaign”, signed “M” and published in Volkszeitung, the organ of the Bund, No. 208 (November 16). We have no means of judging to what extent that article expresses the unanimous view of the editors, but in any case it reflects certain trends among Jewish Social-Democrats. Russian Social-Democrats, too, who are familiar only with the Bolshevik and Menshevik method of treating a question, need to be aware of these trends. Here is the translation of this article:
“The energy and influence that our Party will be able to exert in the elections will depend above all on the clarity and definiteness of our position and slogans. We are faced with important political and social questions, and it is our task to formulate them so clearly and definitely that only one answer will be possible, namely; ours. If our position is not definite enough, even the most perfect organisation will be of no avail. The importance of our platform in the election campaign depends entirely on the clarity of our position.
“The Seventh Congress of the Bund laid down the main lines of our tactics as follows: the dissolution of the Duma has clearly proved to wide sections of the population that it is impossible to obtain land and liberty by peaceful means, and that the only solution is an armed uprising. This does not mean that the elections to the new Duma imply a change from revolutionary tactics to peaceful and constitutional tactics, since in the elections it is realised that revolutionary tactics are necessary; the electors will demand that their deputies convert the Duma into a revolutionary instrument of the mass of the people. Our task in the elections is to make this principle clear to the voters, and this principle requires that the elections themselves be made an arena for mobilising the revolutionary masses of the people.
“While the Duma was in session, and still more so since the dissolution of the Duma, the country made great strides in developing its political consciousness, thanks to which the revolutionary parties count on success at the elections. At the first elections the petty-bourgeois voters voted for the Cadets, thus expressing their ardent protest against the atrocities of the government. Not having yet discarded their constitutional illusions, these voters felt sure that the Cadets would secure land and liberty for them. The Duma tactics have shattered these illusions and have convinced them that land and liberty can be gained only by fighting, not by peaceful means. The voters are now faced with the question of bow to fight, and who is capable of fighting: the Cadets with their diplomatic parliamentarism, and, at best, with their weapon of ’passive resistance’, or the revolutionary parties with their militant tactics? Obviously, when the voters are faced with the question of how to attain real freedom, they realise that only the revolutionary and not the constitutional parties are capable of fighting.
“The Cadets have realised this and are trying their utmost to ignore all the lessons that events have taught them; they are trying to drag the political consciousness of the country back to what it was on the eve of the first elections. ’Not a step forward,’ is their cry. ’Forget all the lessons of history. The object of the new elections,’ they say, ’is to recreate the political conditions under which the First Duma functioned. The people must return to the Duma the former Duma majority, and thus give rise to a political situation in the country in which the only way out will be a responsible Cabinet from the Duma majority’ (Rech, No. 189). If Russia needs a real constitution and a genuine popular representative assembly,’ says Rech, No. 196, ’then the people will return to the Duma representatives who will repeat what the First Duma stated in its reply to the address from the throne and who will set to work to do what the First Duma was prevented from doing.’ The question cannot fail to arise as to what will happen if the Second Duma also is ’prevented’ from doing what the First Duma intended to do. To this the Constitutional-Democrats reply that ’the government will have to yield to the firm, peacefully and lawfully expressed will of the electorate’ (Rech, No. 195) The Cadets know very well that their strength rests on constitutional illusions, and that is why they are doing their utmost to instil into the minds of the voters the idea that prevailed on the eve of the first elections, and to imbue them with faith in the omnipotent power of the ’firm, peacefully and lawfully expressed will of the electorate’. The strength of the revolutionary parties does not lie in the voters’ belief in the ’omnipotent power of the firm, peacefully and lawfully expressed will of the electorate’, but, on the contrary, in their disbelief in that power, in their clear realisation of the necessity of a revolutionary struggle.
“Our task, therefore, as far as the voters are concerned, is categorically to ask them whether they want the majority in the future Duma to he the same as the previous one, with its flexible tactics that are incapable of achieving anything. Do they want the future Duma merely to ’repeat’ what the first one said, or should it go beyond idle talk and adopt more efficacious methods of struggle? Should the new Duma ’recreate the political situation’ of June and July, which led to nothing, or should it take a step towards real victory for the people?
“This question must serve as our platform in the election campaign. We must surround the Cadet Party with an atmosphere of the most profound disbelief in their ability to secure land and liberty. We must energetically and ruthlessly criticise passive resistance—the method of struggle they invented in Helsingfors—and reveal to the people the impotence and inconsistency of their methods of struggle.
“Only if this necessary condition is observed will the Second Duma be a step in advance of the First Duma.”
Reading this article carefully we see that it fairly accurately reflects the views of the Bund delegation at the last All-Russian Conference of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. As we know, on the one hand, this delegation voted with the Mensheviks to sanction blocs with the Cadets, but on the other hand, it voted with the Bolsheviks for drastic amendments to the Central Committee’s “draft election platform” (the addition of the slogan of a republic, of a reference to an uprising, and of an exact characterisation of the parties, and an amendment giving a more precise explanation of the class nature of the Social-Democratic Party, etc.: see the resolution of the Conference on “amendments” to the platform in Proletary, No. 8).
The article by Comrade M. given above seems to be such a Bolshevik article because we see here only the left hand of the Bund; the right hand is hidden in articles advocating blocs with the Cadets.
At all events, the Bundists’ idea of blocs with the Cadets is not that of the Mensheviks. Their case is an exceptionally good illustration of the famous saying: Si duo faciunt idem, non est idem (“if two do the same thing, it is no longer the same thing”). There is a certain difference between the two, and this difference cannot fail to affect their ways of doing the same thing, their methods, the results of their “doing the same thing”, etc. The Mensheviks’ idea of blocs with the Cadets and the Bundists’ idea of them are not the same. For the Mensheviks, blocs with the Cadets are fully in accord with their general tactics; in the case of the Bundists, they are not. As a result, we get articles like the one we have quoted, which clearly reveal the inconsistency, the lack of steadfastness, of the Bundists, who took part in the boycott yesterday and today justify the boycott of the Witte Duma, while at the same time sanctioning blocs with the Cadets. In the case of the Mensheviks, blocs with the Cadets naturally and spontaneously assume the character of ideological blocs. In the case of the Bundists, these blocs are intended to be only “technical” blocs.
But politics have their own objective logic, irrespective of what persons or parties plan in advance. The Bundist proposes that the bloc should be only a technical one, but the political forces of the whole country dispose that the bloc turns out to be an ideological one. After the jubilation with which the Cadets received the Menshevik decision of the Conference, after Plekhanov’s famous Herostratian letter in Tovarishch about “a Duma with full power”, there is scarcely need to prove the point.
Consider carefully the assertion of the author of the article that “the Cadets know very well that their strength rests on constitutional illusions, and that is why they are doing their utmost to instil [these illusions] into the minds of the voters”.
“The strength of the Cadets rests on constitutional illusions”.... Is this true; and what does it really mean? If it is not true, if the strength of the Cadets rests on the fact that they are the foremost representatives of bourgeois democracy in the Russian bourgeois revolution, then the general tactical line of Menshevism, or of the Right wing of Social-Democracy, is correct. If it is true, if the strength of the Cadets rests not on the strength of bourgeois democracy, but on the strength of the illusions of the people, then the general tactical line of Bolshevism, or of the Left wing of Social-Democracy, is correct.
In a bourgeois revolution the Social-Democrats cannot but support bourgeois democracy: such is the main premise of Plekhanov and his like; and from this premise they draw the direct and immediate conclusion of the need to support the Cadets. But we say: The premise is right, but the conclusion is worthless, for we have still to ascertain which parties or trends at the present moment represent the force of bourgeois democracy that is really capable of fighting. The Cadets, the Trudoviks, the Socialist-Revolutionaries are all “bourgeois democrats” from the Marxist standpoint, i.e., the only scientific analysis. The “force” of the Cadets is not the fighting force of the bourgeois masses (the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie), it is not the economic and money force of the landlord class (the Black Hundreds) or the capitalist class (the Octobrists): it is the “force” of the bourgeois intelligentsia, which is not an independent economic class and therefore is not an independent political force; consequently, it is a usurped “force”, depending on the influence of the bourgeois intelligentsia over other classes which have not yet worked out a clear, independent political ideology of their own, which submit to the ideological leadership of the bourgeois intelligentsia; it is primarily the “force” of those erroneous opinions concerning the nature of democracy and the methods of fighting for it which the bourgeois intelligentsia is propagating and cultivating among the bourgeois masses.
To deny this means childishly allowing oneself to be beguiled by the resounding words: “the party of people’s freedom”; it means closing one’s eyes to the generally known fact that the Cadets have neither the masses nor a decisive number of landlord and capitalist elements behind them.
To admit it means admitting that the task of the day for the workers’ party is to combat the influence of the Cadets over the people—not because we have been dreaming of a bourgeois revolution without bourgeois democracy (an absurdity imputed to us by the Social-Democrats of the Right) but because the Cadets are preventing the real force of bourgeois democracy from developing and asserting itself.
Only a minority of the landlords of Russia (the great majority are Black Hundreds) and a minority of the capitalists (the great majority are Octobrists) belong to the Cadet Party. It has the majority, the mass, of the bourgeois intelligentsia only. Hence the spectacular politics of the Cadets, so enticing to political infants and politically impotent dotards, their din and clamour, their jubilation over cheap victories, their predominance in the liberal press, in bourgeois science, etc. Hence, too, the sham nature of this party, which corrupts the people with its treacherous propaganda for a compromise with the monarchy, yet in fact lacks the power to achieve any such compromise.
The Cadets are not bourgeois democracy, but the incarnation of the betrayal of democracy by the bourgeoisie—just as the French radical socialists, for instance, or the German social-liberals, are not intellectual socialists, but the incarnation of the betrayal of socialism by the intellectuals. Therefore, supporting bourgeois democracy means exposing the sham of the Cadets’ quasi-democracy.
Therefore, the Plekhanovites are causing immense harm to the revolution and to the cause of the working class with their perpetual cry: we must fight reaction, not the Cadets!
Dear comrades! Your failure to grasp the point lies in your failure to understand the significance of our struggle against the Cadets. What is the kernel and essence of this struggle? Is it that the Cadets are “bourgeois”? Of course not. It is that the Cadets are mere chatterers about democracy, traitors to militant democracy.
To proceed: Have the Cadets any influence on the mass of the people, on the bourgeois-democratic mass of the people? Of course, they have, and very extensive influence too, with numerous newspapers, and so forth. Now judge for yourselves: Can we call upon the bourgeois-democratic mass of the people to fight reaction if we do not unmask their present ideological leaders, who are damaging the cause of bourgeois democracy? Impossible, dear comrades.
Fighting reaction means, first of all, liberating the masses from reaction ideologically. But the strong and tenacious ideological influence of “reaction” on the masses is not Black Hundred, but Cadet influence. This is not a paradox. The Black Hundreds are undisguised, crude enemies, who can burn, kill and cause havoc, but cannot convince even the ignorant muzhik, whereas the Cadets convince both the muzhiks and the urban petty bourgeoisie. And what do they convince them of? That the monarch is not responsible, that it is possible to win freedom by peaceful means (i.e., by leaving power in the hands of the monarchy), that a land-purchase scheme concocted by the landlords is the method of transferring land to the peasants most advantageous for them, etc., etc.
That is why you cannot convince either the simple-minded peasant or the simple-minded petty bourgeois that it is necessary to wage a serious struggle unless you undermine the influence on them of Cadet phrases and Cadet ideology. And anyone who says: “we must fight reaction, not the Cadets” fails to understand the ideological tasks of the struggle, sees the essence of struggle, not in convincing the masses, but in physical action, understanding the word struggle in the vulgar sense: “strike” at the reactionaries, but don’t “strike” at the Cadets,
Of course, for the time being we shall strike by force of arms, not at the Cadets, or even at the Octobrists, but only at the government and its direct servants—and after we have beaten them, the Cadet will, for a fee, stick up for republican democracy just as today (for a professorial salary, or a lawyer’s fee) he is sticking up for monarchist democracy. But, in order to gain a real victory over reaction we must free the masses from the ideological influence of the Cadets, who are giving them false notions of the aims and nature of the fight against reaction.
Let us return to the Bundists. Can they really fail to see now that the “technical” blocs with the Cadets which they sanction have in fact already become a mighty instrument for strengthening belief in the Cadets (and not for creating an atmosphere of disbelief) among the mass of the people? Only the blind can fail to see this. The ideological bloc of all the Menshevik Social-Democrats, including the Bundists, with the Cadets is an accomplished fact, and articles like that written by Comrade M. are well-meaning, but simple-minded, platonic dreams.
- This refers to the resolution of the Second Conference of the RSDLP (“First All-Russian”), “Amendment to the Draft Election platform proposed by the Central Committee” (see The CPSU in Resolutions and Decisions of Its Congresses, Conferences and Plenary Meetings of the Central Committee, Russ. ed., Part I, 1954, pp. 142-43).