Famine Relief and the Tactics of the Duma
|Written||23 June 1906|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 43-47.
Today’s newspapers report that a joint meeting of the Budget and Food committees of the State Duma was held on Wednesday, June 21. The meeting discussed the proposal of the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Finance to appropriate 50 million rubles for famine relief. “The Committee resolved to recommend that the State Duma assign 15 million rubles for immediate needs, the sum to be taken from current expenditure, and to request the Cabinet to submit its views on the question of reducing the estimated current expenditure by that amount. The Cabinet’s proposal that an internal loan of 50 million rubles be issued was rejected” (Rech, June 22).
The question of appropriating funds for famine relief is an extremely important one. Every intelligent citizen should watch the progress of this question through all its stages with unremitting attention.
First of all we will remind the reader that the question that originally arose in the State Duma was the following: Would it be right to grant money to the government of pogrom-mongers, or should the Duma itself take the whole business of famine relief into its own hands? At first, Deputy Aladyin spoke in favour of the correct, i.e., the latter, solution. He proposed that committees of the Duma be elected, that members of the Duma be sent to the affected areas, that recourse should be made to “free institutions”, and the money and the whole business of famine relief concentrated in their hands. Not a kopek for the Gurkos and Durnovos!— said Aladyin, amidst applause from the Left benches of the Duma and cries of: Hear, hear! As we know, Aladyin did not keep to this correct position. He soared very high, but eventually settled on the perch in the Cadet hencoop. The Social-Democratic deputies made a mistake in not expressing their views by strong speeches on this question. The Duma adopted the Cadet formula of a motion to proceed to the next business.
Thus, the fundamental question of principle was settled on Cadet, landlord, liberal lines. The Duma refused to be come the instrument of the revolution in this matter. The Duma feared the people, dreaded an appeal to the people. In principle, the Duma agreed to leave the business of famine relief in the hands of the Gurkos and the pogrom-mongering Ministers. Thus, the Cadet Duma has shown that it only wants to exercise pressure on the pogrom-mongers with the help of the people, and not to fight on the side of the people against the pogrom-mongers; that it only wants to curb the pogrom-mongers a little, but not to remove them altogether.
The question has entered a second stage. How will the Cadets exercise pressure on the pogrom-mongers now? Haggling has begun between the Committee of the Duma and the Ministers. At the meeting of the Committee on June 21 the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Finance were present. The Duma that would have no dealings with the people and with “free institutions”, that refused to negotiate with the latter, began to negotiate with these Ministers. “Not a kopek for the Right Honourable Ministers”—that was merely a rhetorical flourish. Negotiations with the Right Honourable Ministers have become a fact. The Ministers asked for permission to float a loan. The Committee of the Duma refused. They demanded that the money be taken from this year’s Budget, i. e., that certain harmful expenditure be reduced so as to provide the necessary sum for famine relief. By this tactical device, this flanking movement, the Duma is seizing a particle of right to control the State Budget. The Budget was adopted without the consent of the representatives of the people; but now a revision of the Budget with a view to reducing harmful expenditure and obtaining funds for useful expenditure is being secured in a roundabout way.
Such is the second stage of the question. The Cadets, that is, the party of the liberal landlords and the liberal bourgeoisie, want to control the organs of the old regime; they want to influence them, to clean them and paint them up; to substitute the Nabokovs for the Stolypins. But they don’t want to replace all these organs and institutions of the old, police, feudal regime by tree institutions of the people, by officials freely elected by the whole people. How is the money for famine relief to be obtained? Who is to be entrusted with the expenditure of these millions? Three main answers to these questions are offered by the three main political forces of the present period. The government of police pogrom-mongers answers: Obtain the money by floating a new loan, so as not to encroach on our police- pogrom Budget. We, the police and pogrom-mongers, will spend the money. The working class, and all the politically conscious peasants, answer: Let the people themselves collect the money and spend it themselves through the medium of “free institutions” really elected by the whole people and really without any connection with the dirty police. These free institutions must be used for developing a broad mass movement to transfer all power in the state, and the whole “Treasury”, to the people. The liberal landlords and the liberal bourgeoisie (“Cadets”) answer: We don’t want any “free institutions”, we are afraid of them. The people would go “too far”. Much better to remain with the old pogrom- mongers, and just clean and scrub them a bit. Take the money from their Budget by cutting down harmful expenditure. Entrust the expenditure of the money to this government of pogrom-mongers, but try to bring them under our, that is, the liberal landlords’ control.
The answers are clear. So are the positions of the government, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The only question is, whom will the peasants follow?
The liberal bourgeoisie, the Cadets, are wavering between the government and the people. The position of the waverers is ambiguous. It is easy to say: Take the money from the current Budget by cutting down harmful expenditure! But the money is needed at once, and this operation requires the consent of the Council of State and the head of the state. Hence, the Cadets must be counting on obtaining the voluntary consent of the higher officials and the camarilla. What are the Cadets’ calculations based on? On the possibility of a deal over the composition of the next Cabinet.
We must look reality straight in the face. It is useless playing the hypocrite. It is useless playing hide-and-seek. The necessity of assigning money for famine relief is being used as a counter in the haggling that is going between the Cadets and the pogrom-mongers’ government, between the Cadets and the camarilla. The Cadets, in effect, say to the pogrom-mongers: If you gentlemen give way to us and appoint Muromtsev as Prime Minister instead of Yermolov, we will give way to you and grant you 15 and perhaps all 50 millions for famine relief, without any “dangerous” (for you pogrom-mongers as well as us landlords) recourse to “free institutions” of the people.
That is the true significance of the present events in the Duma. That is the true significance of Mr. Yeshchin’s article in today’s issue of the Cadet newspaper Rech, which the leading article in that paper commends, with slight reservations, and in which the author argues that the Duma should grant the pogrom-mongers’ government money, but “fence this grant round with all the conditions that the Duma can reasonably demand”.
The political situation is clear. Our Social-Democratic deputies in the Duma are now faced with a very serious task. Firstly, they must launch a major attack against the Cadets when the Budget and Food Committee’s report comes up for discussion. They must demand recourse to “free institutions” of the people. They must open the eyes of the peasants to the reason why the Cadets, among whom there are so many landlords, are afraid of the people who need all the land—without any redemption payment—and complete freedom. They must insist on a vote being taken on their resolution on this question, so that the party of the proletariat may be ensured of the sympathy of all the toiling masses, and so that the wavering and cowardice of the liberal landlords may be clearly and publicly exposed.
Secondly, when the Cadets defeat the proposal to have recourse to free institutions, the Social-Democrats must launch a second attack from our next fortified line. They must demand an explanation why the Committee (the joint Budget and Food Committee) has not published all the details of their negotiations with the Right Honourable gentlemen, the Ministers of the Interior and of Finance. They must be well prepared for a far more thorough and resolute criticism of the whole Budget than that made by the Cadets in the Committee. Voices will then be heard from the rostrum of the Duma relentlessly exposing the double game the Cadets are playing, exposing all the “secrets” of the Russian Budget of the police pogrom-mongers—a Budget which squanders tens and hundreds of millions on assistance for landlords and capitalists, on military adventures, on “relief” for spies and gendarmes, on rewarding all the high-placed heroes of the Manchurian tragedy, and on maintaining a horde of thieving officials who tyrannise over the people. Voices will be heard from the rostrum of the Duma proving that harmful expenditure amounts to much more than 15 or 50 millions.
The Cadets only want to exercise a little pressure on the government. The pogrom-mongers will be the first to be called to account by the Social-Democrats; but the Cadets, too, will have to answer for their attempt to gloss over the profound antagonism between the camarilla and the people.
- Rech (Speech)—a daily newspaper, the central organ of the Cadets; it was published in St. Petersburg from February 1906. It was closed down by the Revolutionary Military Committee on October 26 (November 8), 1917.
- This refers to the tsarist generals responsible for the defeat of the Russian army in Manchuria during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05.