Concerning the Event of November 15

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An Undelivered Speech[edit source]

On November 15 the Fourth Duma opened. And on November 15 there was a demonstration of workers in St. Petersburg.[1] In view of previous political strikes, and because of them, this demonstration had the importance of a major historical event. The strikes led up to demonstrations. The movement of the masses rose to a higher plane—from strikes of a political nature to street demonstrations. This is a great step forward, which should be stressed, noted and estimated at its true worth by all politically enlightened leaders of the proletariat.

The significance of this step forward is all the greater because it coincided with the opening of the Fourth, landlord, Black-Hundred, June Third Duma. A perfectly timed demonstration! Wonderful proletarian instinct, the ability to counter and contrast the opening of the Black-Hundred “parliament” with red banners in the streets of the capital!

Wonderful proletarian instinct, the ability to counter the sycophantic, slavish, Cadet-Octobrist “demonstration” (over Rodzyanko’s wretched phrase-mongering about a “constitution”[2]) inside the Palace by a demonstration of the real kind, a truly popular, truly democratic, purely labour demonstration (the intelligentsia, unfortunately, was absent, if we are to trust the newspapers).

Sycophantic chatter about a “constitution” (or pie in the sky à la Rodzyanko) inside the Black-Hundred Duma, and a specimen of the incipient struggle for freedom and a people’s representative assembly (without inverted commas), for a republic, outside the Duma—this contrast revealed the deep and unerring instinct of the revolutionary masses.

The fact that the liberal and liquidationist Luch “warned” against such a demonstration is worthy of traitors to the working-class cause.

But how could the Social-Democratic group “warn”? How could it stoop to the level of Cadets—to a slavish level? How did it happen that individual members of it submitted, and accepted such infamy?

The supposition arises—one that is sometimes put forward “in private”—that perhaps there were fears of a provocation in one of the groups “calling for” the demonstration?

Let us assume for a moment that this supposition was made. Does it exonerate the Social-Democratic group? No. Or, to be exact, it justifies the group’s move from a personal point of view, but not politically. It exonerates the Social-Democratic Duma group from the suspicion of betrayal of the workers’ cause, but not from the accusation of a political error.

Indeed, what would a workers’ deputy, a real workers’ deputy, have done had he, after three days of news about preparations for a demonstration of this kind, heard on the last day the “rumour” (which might have been provocative too): “Is there some provocation here?”

The workers’ deputy would have found his way to several influential workers. He would have realised that at such a time his place was alongside the prominent workers, that it was a hundred times more important to be there with the workers than at the meetings of the Duma group. He would have learned from the prominent workers, from two or three (or perhaps four or five) influential workers of the capital, how matters stood, what the workers thought about it, and what the mood of the masses was.

The workers’ deputy would have made inquiries about these things—he would have known how to make inquiries about them, and would have learnt that there was to be a strike (15 to 50 thousand!! according to the bourgeois press), that there was to be a demonstration, that the workers were not thinking of violence and disorders, and that, consequently, the rumour about a provocation was no more than a silly rumour.

The workers’ deputy would have found out these things, and would not have let himself be deceived by the terrified petty liberal intellectuals of the infamous “initiating group”.

Rumours of a provocation. All right. But were there no rumours during the Gaponiad? A fine worker or workers’ leader one would have been had one been unable to distinguish between the incipient peculiar awakening of the masses during the Gaponiad and the agent provocateur Gapon, or the police agents provocateurs who urged Gapon on!!

Let us assume that the police and agents provocateurs had a hand in the preparations for the demonstration on November 15. Let us (although it has not been proved and is incredible; it is more likely that what was a provocation was the rumours about a provocation).

But let us assume it was so. What of it? One must not resort to violence when there has been no question of it. One must warn against violence. But to warn against a peaceful strike at a time when the masses are seething? To warn against a demonstration??

It is a very, very sad mistake the Social-Democratic Duma group as a whole has made. And it would be gratifying to learn that this mistake was not made by all, and that many of those who did make it realise their mistake and will not repeat it.

The movement of the proletariat in Russia (whatever the police tricks anywhere) has risen to a higher plane.

  1. ↑ The demonstration was organised on the initiative of the Bolshevik representatives of various districts and factories of St. Petersburg. A few days prior to the opening of the Fourth Duma a leaflet was distributed in the factories calling on the workers to organise a one-day political strike on November 15 (28), 1912, and to march to the Taurida Palace. The liquidators, writing in Luch, opposed the idea of a march. On November 13 (26) the Social-Democratic group called a meeting of representatives of the St. Petersburg Committee, the Editorial Board of Pravda, the liquidators’ leading centre—the Organising Committee, and the liquidationist Luch. At the meeting the Bolsheviks supported the workers’ proposal to mark the opening day of the Black-Hundred Duma by a strike and demonstration. The liquidators emphatically opposed it. After the meeting the Social-Democratic group published in the press a politically erroneous statement in which they took a negative stand on the proposal for a strike. Despite the opposition of the liquidators and the political error of the Social-Democratic group, tens of thousands of workers struck on the day the Duma opened. In a number of factories short meetings were held at which the workers decided to boycott Luch.
    After the demonstration the Bolshevik members of the Duma admitted their error at workers’ meetings.
  2. ↑ Lenin is referring to the speech which Rodzyanko made upon his election to the chair of the Fourth Duma. Rodzyanko signified his “unshakable devotion” to the tsar and his support of a representative constitutional system.