How Not to Write Resolutions

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“How Not To Write Resolutions” was published in the second issue of the symposium Questions of Tactics.

These pamphlets were published by the Bolsheviks in April 1907 in St. Petersburg at the Novaya Duma Publishing House. Lenin was an active collaborator in their publication as part of the preparations for the Fifth Congress of the RSDLP Two issues appeared.

The second issue of the Questions of Tactics was sequestered by the St. Petersburg Press Committee.

One must thank the Menshevik comrades for publishing in Russkaya Zhizn, No. 47 (February 24), the first draft of a resolution (prepared by Comrades Dan, Koltsov, Martynov, Martov, Negorev and others, with a group of practicians participating). (It has also been published as a separate leaflet.) To prepare seriously for the Party congress, we must publish draft resolutions beforehand, and analyse them in detail.

The resolution deals with the attitude to the State Duma.

Point 1:

“At the present moment, after seven months’ rule of the most unbridled dictatorship that has failed to meet with organised counteraction on the part of the terrorised masses, the activity of the State Duma, by arousing the interest of those masses in the political life of the country, can and must facilitate their mobilisation and the development of their political activity.”

What do they mean by this? That it is better with a Duma than without one? Or is this an approach to the idea that the “Duma must be preserved”? It seems that this is actually the authors’ idea. Only it is not expressed, but merely hinted at. Resolutions cannot be compiled of hints.

Point 2:

“The task of the direct struggle for power that is rising to [probably a misprint[1] –it should read “is becoming”] the central feature of the Russian revolution, is, under the existing alignment of social forces, reduced mainly to the question of the struggle for popular representation.”

It was not for nothing that this point won praise from Rech (the leading article of February 27: “for Russian Social-Democracy this is a tremendous step forward... the success of political consciousness”). And it is, indeed, really a monstrous point.

How can the task of the struggle for power be reduced to the question of the “struggle for popular representation”?! What is meant by “the struggle for popular representation”? What is this “existing alignment of social forces”? The previous point has only just said that the “seven months’ rule of the most unbridled dictatorship has failed to meet with organised counteraction on the part of the terrorised masses”. Surely the absence of the organised resistance of the masses during those seven months, accompanied by an obvious and extensive swing of the masses to the Left which was made clear by the elections at the end of the seven months, can tell us something about the “alignment of social forces”.

This is some sort of almost unbelievable confusion in political thinking.

The alignment of social forces has obviously changed during the past half-year in the sense that the “Centre”, the liberals, have weakened; the extremes, the Black Hundreds and the “Lefts” have grown stronger and more virile. The elections to the Second Duma proved this irrefutably. There is, therefore a more revolutionary alignment of social forces in consequence of the sharpening of political contradictions (and economic contradictions, too—lock-outs, hunger strikes, etc.). By what miracle could our Mensheviks draw the opposite conclusion that made them weaken the revolutionary tasks (“the struggle for power”) and bring them down to the level of mere liberal tasks (“the struggle for popular representation”)?

“An unbridled dictatorship” and a Left Duma—obviously the opposite conclusion is to be drawn from this; the liberal task of struggling on the basis of popular representation, or for the preservation of that representation, is a petty-bourgeois utopia because, by force of objective circumstances, such a task cannot be carried out without “a direct struggle for power”.

Menshevik political thinking moves forward crabwise.

The conclusion to be drawn from the second point is this: the Mensheviks have abandoned the revolutionary Social-Democratic position for the liberal position. The “nebulosity” of the conclusion of the second point (“the struggle for popular representation”) actually expresses the idea of the liberal bourgeoisie who pretend that it is not they who are “terrorised” by the revolution but “the masses of the people who are terrorised”, and use this as an excuse to reject the revolutionary struggle (“the direct struggle for power”) in favour of the allegedly legal struggle (“the struggle for popular representation”). Stolypin will probably soon teach the Mensheviks the meaning of “the struggle for popular representation” under “the existing alignment of social forces!”

Point 3:

“The elections to the Second Duma, by revealing a considerable number of consistent supporters of the revolution, have shown that among the masses of the people there is a growing consciousness of the necessity for this struggle for power.”

What is this? What does it mean? In Point 2 the substitution of the struggle for representation for the struggle for power was deduced from the existing alignment of social forces, and now a growing consciousness among the masses of the necessity for “this” struggle for power is deduced from the election results!

This, comrades, is muddled. It should be rewritten as something like the following. Point Two—“The elections to the Second Duma showed that among the masses of the people there is a growing consciousness of the necessity for a direct struggle for power.” Point Three—“The striving of the liberal bourgeoisie to limit its political activity to a struggle on the basis of the present popular representation, therefore, expresses the hopeless stupidity of our liberals on the ideological side, and, on the material side, their striving (impracticable at the present moment) to halt the revolution by making a deal with reaction.” If, in addition to this, our Marxists were to try and define, in Point I, the economic causes that brought about this sharpening of political extremes among the people, they could have made something coherent out of it.

And then, what is meant by “consistent supporters of the revolution”? Apparently, what is meant here is petty bourgeois democrats, mainly peasant democrats, i.e., the Trudoviks (in the broad sense, including the Popular Socialists and the Socialist-Revolutionaries), since the Second Duma differs from the First precisely in this respect. But, in the first place, this again is a hint, and resolutions are not compiled of hints. And, secondly, it is all untrue, comrades! For calling the Trudoviks “consistent supporters of the revolution” we ought formally to accuse you of Socialist-Revolutionary heresy. Only the proletariat can be the consistent (in the strict sense of the word) supporter of the bourgeois revolution, because the class of small producers, small proprietors, must inevitably vacillate between the proprietary urge and the revolutionary urge— for instance, the Socialist-Revolutionaries at the St. Petersburg elections wavered between the urge to sell them selves to the Cadets and the urge to give battle to the Cadets.

You will therefore agree with us, comrades, that we must express ourselves more cautiously—approximately in the way the Bolshevik resolution is worded (see Novy Luch, February 27):[2]

“... the Trudovik parties ... come more or less close to expressing the interests and viewpoint of the broad masses of the peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie, wavering between submission to the leader ship of the liberals [the elections in St. Petersburg, the election of a Cadet as Chairman of the Duma] and a determined struggle against landed proprietorship and the feudal state

Incidentally, we must mention that in this resolution, Comrade Koltsov (with other Mensheviks) places the Trudoviks among the consistent supporters of the revolution, but in Russkaya Zhizn, No. 49, that same Koltsov places them among the rural democrats, which, as distinct from the urban democrats (i.e., from the Cadets) “will in many cases defend old, outworn modes of production and social organisation”. That doesn’t sound very coherent, comrades!

Point 4:

“The presence of such consistent supporters of the revolution in the Duma, arousing and strengthening the confidence of the masses in that institution, makes it more easily possible for it to become the real centre of the people’s struggle for liberty and power.”

The conclusion is a “pleasant” one, say what you will. But again the logic is lame. With this point the Mensheviks conclude the preamble to their resolution. On this question they do not utter a single word more in the resolution. And so the conclusion is a lame one.

If the “consistent supporters of the revolution” do not constitute a majority in the Duma, but only “a consider able number” (as is said—and rightly so—in Point 3), it is clear that there are also opponents of the revolution and inconsistent supporters of the revolution. That means that there is the “possibility” of the Duma as a whole “becoming a real centre” of inconsistent democratic politics and not of “the people’s struggle for liberty and power”.

In such a case one of two things would happen: (1) either the confidence of the masses in that institution would not be aroused and strengthened, but would be reduced and weakened, or (2) the political consciousness of the masses would be corrupted on account of their mistaking the policy of inconsistent supporters of the revolution for a consistent democratic policy.

From this it is perfectly clear that a conclusion, for some reason or other omitted by them, follows inevitably from the premises put forward by the Mensheviks—the party of the proletariat, of the consistent supporter of the revolution, must work persistently to ensure that those who are not fully consistent supporters of the revolution (the Trudoviks, for instance) should follow the working class against the inconsistent supporters of the revolution, particularly against the notorious supporters of stopping the revolution (the Cadets, for instance).

As a result of the absence of this conclusion in the Mensheviks’ draft they are quite unable to be consistent. It amounts to this: inasmuch as there are a considerable number of “consistent supporters of the revolution” in the Duma, votes should be given to ... those who are known to be in favour of halting the revolution!

This doesn’t sound very good, does it, comrades?

The concluding part of the resolution (taking it point by point) is as follows:

“Social-Democracy, while exposing the illusory conception that the State Duma is really a legislative body, explains to the masses, on the one hand, the real nature of the Duma, which is actually an advisory body, and, on the other the possibility and necessity of using that body, despite its imperfections, to serve the purpose of a further struggle for popular power, and participates in the legislative work of the Duma, being guided by the following principles:...”

This is a weaker expression of the idea that was more strongly expressed in the Fourth (Unity) Congress resolution in the part which speaks of “converting” the Duma into an “instrument of the revolution”, of making the masses conscious of the “utter insuitability” of the Duma, etc.

“I. (a) Social-Democracy criticises from the standpoint of the interests of the urban and rural proletariat and from that of consistent democratism, the proposals and bills of all non-proletarian parties, and puts forward its own demands and proposals in opposition to them; in this field it connects immediate political tasks with the social and economic needs of the proletarian masses and with the requirements of the working-class movement in all its forms.

Note. Whenever circumstances demand it, Social-Democracy supports, as a lesser evil, those bills of other parties which, if put into force, could become an instrument in the hands of the masses for use in the revolutionary struggle to attain real democratic liberty....”

This note expresses the idea of the necessity for Social-Democrats to participate in bourgeois-reformist work in the Duma. Is it not too early for this, comrades? Have you yourselves not said that the concept of the Duma as a real legislative body is an illusory one? You want to sup port those bourgeois bills that could be of benefit to the further struggle if they were put into force.

Think over this condition—“if they were put into force”. The purpose of your support is to facilitate the implementation of the “lesser evil”. But it is not the Duma that implements it, but the Duma plus the Council of State[3] plus the supreme authority! This means that there is absolutely no guarantee that by giving your support you are facilitating the implementation of the “lesser evil”. And by supporting the “lesser evil”, by voting for it, you are taking upon yourselves, upon the proletarian party, some small part of the responsibility for half-way bourgeois reformism, for what is, in essence, the Duma’s work of sham legislation, which you yourselves admit to be sham legislation!

For what reason should you extend this risky “support”? There is the risk that it will cause a direct enfeeblement of that revolutionary consciousness of the masses to which you are yourselves appealing—and its practical value is “illusory”!

You are not writing a resolution on reformist work in general (in which case it would be necessary to say merely that Social-Democracy does not renounce it); you are writing about the Second Duma. You have already said that there are a considerable number of “consistent supporters of the revolution” in this Duma. You therefore have in mind a Duma with a party composition that is already defined. That is a fact. You know that in the present Duma there are not only “consistent[4] supporters of the revolution” but also “inconsistent supporters of reforms”—not only Lefts and Trudoviks but also Cadets, these last-named in themselves being stronger than the Rights (Cadets and their allies, the Narodowci among them, being about 150 against 100 Rights). With this situation in the Duma, there is no need for you to support the “lesser evil” for the sake of its implementation; it is quite enough for you to abstain in the struggle between the reactionaries and the “inconsistent supporters of reforms”. The practical result (as far as the implementation of laws is concerned) will be the same, but as far as the ideological and political aspect is concerned, your undoubted gain will be the integrity, purity, consistency and conviction of your position as a party of the revolutionary proletariat.

Is this a circumstance that revolutionary Social-Democracy can afford to ignore?

The Mensheviks are looking upward instead of looking downward. They are looking more to the feasibility of the “lesser evil” by means of a deal between the “inconsistent supporters of reforms” and the reactionaries (for such is the real meaning of the implementation of bills) than to the development of political consciousness and of potentialities for struggle in the “consistent supporters of the revolution”, of whom, according to their own words, “there are a considerable number” in the Duma. The Mensheviks themselves are looking, and are teaching the people to look, for an agreement between the Cadets and the autocracy (the implementation of the “lesser evil”, of reforms), and not to the possibility of turning the attention of the more or less “consistent supporters of the revolution” to the masses. This is a liberal, not a proletarian policy. This means that in word you are announcing the illusory nature of the Duma’s legislative powers, and in deed are strengthening the people’s faith in legislative reforms through the Duma and weakening their faith in revolutionary struggle.

Be more consistent and more honest, Meusbevik comrades! If you are convinced that the revolution is over, if absence of faith in the revolution results from this conviction of yours (perhaps arrived at along scientific lines?), then there is no need to talk of revolution, then you must reduce your immediate aims to the struggle for reforms.

If you believe what you say, if you really believe that “a considerable number” of deputies to the Second Duma are “consistent supporters of the revolution”, you should give priority, not to support (support that is useless in practice and harmful ideologically) for reforms, but to raising the level of the revolutionary consciousness of those supporters, to consolidating their revolutionary organisa tion and determination under the direct pressure of the proletariat.

Otherwise you would arrive at the height of illogicality and confusion; in the name of the development of the revolution, a working-class party does not, by a single word, define its tasks in respect of the more or less “consistent supporters of the revolution”, but instead devotes a special note to the task of supporting the “lesser evil”, the incon sistent supporters of reforms!

The “note” should be rewritten something like this: “In view of the fact that there are a considerable number of more or less consistent supporters of the revolution in the Duma, the Social-Democrats in the Duma must, when dis cussing those bills which the inconsistent supporters of reforms wish to implement, pay critical attention chiefly to the half-and-half nature and unreliability of those bills, to the agreement therein contained between the liberals and the reactionaries, and to explaining to the more or less consistent supporters of the revolution the necessity for a decisive and ruthless revolutionary struggle. During the voting on those bills which constitute the lesser evil, the Social-Democrats abstain from voting and leave the liberals themselves to ’conquer’ reaction on paper and to answer to the people for the implementation of ’liberal’ reforms under the autocracy.”

“...(b) The Social-Democrats make use of the discussion on various bills and on the state budget in order to expose, not only the negative sides of the existing regime, but also all the class contradictions of bourgeois society....”

An excellent aim. In order to expose the class contradictions of bourgeois society, the parties must be associat ed with classes. We must struggle against the “non-party”, “single opposition” spirit in the Duma, and ruthlessly expose the narrow class character of, for instance, the Cadets, who claim more than anybody to conceal “class contradictions” by the catchword of “people’s freedom”.

We would like the Mensheviks not only to speak of ex posing the class contradictions of bourgeois society (and “not only” of the infamy of the autocracy), but also to do that....

“...(c) On the question of the budget the Social-Democrats are guided by the principle: ’not a kopek for a non-responsible government’....”

A good principle, which would be really excellent if, instead of “non-responsible” some other word were used indicating, not the government’s responsibility to the Duma (a fiction under the present “constitution”), but its “responsibility” to the supreme authority (this is not fiction but reality, since the people have no actual power, and the Mensheviks themselves speak of the impending “struggle for power”).

It should read: “not a kopek for the government until all power is vested in the people”.

“II. The Social-Democrats make use of the right to interpellation in order to expose to the people the true nature of the present government and the fact that all its actions are contradictory to the interests of the people; to explain the condition of the working class in town and countryside, and the conditions of that class’s struggle for the improvement of its political and economic position; to throw light on the role played, in respect of the working class, by the government and its agents and by the propertied classes and the political parties that represent them

A very good point. Only it is a pity that till now (March 19) our Social-Democrats in the Duma have made little use of the right to interpellation.

“...III. By maintaining the closest contact with the working-class masses in the course of this work, and striving, through their legislative activities, to give expression to the organised working-class movement, the Social-Democrats foster organisation of the workers, and of the masses of the people in general, to support the Duma in its struggle against the old regime and to create conditions enabling the Duma to carry its activities beyond the bounds of the fundamental laws that hamper it

First: one cannot speak of the “legislative” activities of the Social-Democrats. One should say “Duma activities”.

Secondly; the slogan—“support the Duma in its struggle against the old regime”—does not in any way accord with the premises of the resolution, and is incorrect in essence.

The preamble to the resolution speaks of the revolutionary struggle for power and of the presence in the Duma of “a considerable number of consistent supporters of the revolution”.

Why is the perfectly clear, revolutionary category of “struggle for power” changed here to a diffuse “struggle against the old regime”, that is, to an expression that actually includes the reformist struggle? Should not the motives in the preamble be changed so that, in place of an “illusory” struggle for power, “the task of struggling for reforms” should be advanced?

Why should you speak here of the masses giving support to “the Duma” and not to the “consistent supporters of the revolution”? It appears that the Mensheviks call on the masses to support the inconsistent supporters of reforms! It doesn’t sound very good, does it, comrades?

Lastly, the words about supporting the “Duma” in its struggle against the old regime in effect engender completely incorrect ideas. To support the Duma means to support the majority in the Duma. The majority is the Cadets plus the Trudoviks. Which means that you, by implication, i.e., without saying so directly, are providing a characteristic for the Cadets—they “are struggling against the old regime”.

This characteristic is untrue and incomplete. Such things are not said by dropping half a hint. They have to be stated clearly and directly. The Cadets are not “struggling against the old regime”, but are trying to reform that old regime, to renew it, by coming to an agreement, as is now perfectly clear and obvious, with the old authorities.

Saying nothing about this in the resolution, keeping it in the shade, means lapsing from the proletarian into the liberal point of view.

“... IV. By this activity of theirs the Social-Democrats aid the development of the popular movement aimed at winning a constituent assembly, and will support, as a stage in this struggle of the people, all the efforts of the State Duma to subordinate the executive power to itself, in this way clearing the soil for the transfer of all state power into the hands of the people...”

This is the most important point in the resolution, and it contains the notorious slogan of a “Duma”, or “responsible” ministry. This point must be examined from the standpoint of its wording and of its meaning.

The point is worded in an extremely peculiar way. The Mensheviks must know that this is one of the most important questions. And they must know that this slogan has once already been proposed by the Central Committee of our Party—at the time of the First Duma—and that at that time the Party did not accept the slogan. This is so perfectly true that not even the Social-Democratic group in the First Duma—consisting, as we know, exclusively of Mensheviks and having as its leader such an outstanding Menshevik as Comrade Jordania—even that group did not accept the slogan of a “responsible ministry”, and did not once include it in any Duma speech!

It would seem that this is more than enough for a particularly attentive attitude to the question. But instead, we have before us the most carelessly worded point in a resolution, on the whole, insufficiently considered.

Why has this new, far more hazy formulation been selected instead of a clear-cut slogan of a “responsible ministry” (Plekhanov in Russkaya Zhizn) or a “ministry of the Duma majority” (the resolution of the CC in the period of the First Duma)? Is this only a rephrasing of that same responsible ministry”, or is it something different? Let us examine these questions.

How could the Duma subordinate executive power to itself? Either legally, on the basis of the present (or a slightly changed) monarchist constitution, or illegally, “carrying its activities beyond the bounds of the fundamental laws that hamper it”, overthrowing the old power, turning it self into a revolutionary convention, into a provisional government, etc. The first possibility is precisely that which is usually expressed by the words “a Duma, or responsible, ministry”. The second possibility means active participation on the part of the “Duma” (i.e., the majority in the Duma) in the direct revolutionary struggle for power. There can be no other way of subordinating executive power to the Duma, and there is no sense in here raising the particular question of how the different ways could be interwoven; we are not confronted with the academic, scientific question of what situations are, in general, possible, but with the practical political question of what the Social-Democrats should, and should not, support in the Duma.

The conclusion to be drawn from this is obvious. The new wording seems to have been deliberately planned to conceal the essence of the point at issue, the real will of the congress, of which the resolution should be an expression. The slogan of a “responsible ministry” has been and still is the cause of sharp disputes between Social-Democrats. Support for revolutionary Duma measures has not only never given rise to sharp disputes, but has probably never led to any differences among Social-Democrats. What should be said about people who have proposed a resolution that glosses over differences by uniting the disputed and the indisputable in one general, diffuse formulation? What is to be said about people who have proposed that a decision of the congress should be recorded in words that do not decide anything but enable some readers to understand these words as meaning revolutionary measures by the Duma, “beyond the bounds”. etc., and others to understand by them a deal concluded between Milyukov and Stolypin on the Cadets joining the ministry?

The politest thing that can be said about people who act in this way is that they are retreating, casting a veil over the once openly expressed and clear-cut programme of support for a Cadet ministry.

In future, therefore, we shall disregard this muddled wording, which hopelessly confuses the issue. We shall speak only of the essence of the question, that of supporting the demand for a “responsible” (or a Cadet—which is the same thing) ministry.

How does the resolution motivate this necessity to support the demand for a Duma or responsible ministry? By the statement that “it is a stage in the people’s struggle for a constituent assembly”, that it is “a basis for the transfer of all power into the hands of the people”. This is the whole of the motive. We shall answer it with a brief summary of our arguments against Social-Democracy supporting the demand for a Duma ministry.

(1) It is absolutely impermissible for a Marxist to confine himself to the abstract juridical contraposition of a “responsible” to a “non-responsible” ministry, a “Duma” ministry to an autocratic ministry, etc., in the way Plekhanov does in Russkaya Zhizn and in the way the Mensheviks have always done in their analysis of this question. It is a liberal-idealist, not proletarian-materialist, argument.

The class significance of the measures under discussion must be studied. If this is done, it will be understood that their content is a bargain, or an attempt at a bargain, between the autocracy and the liberal bourgeoisie to put an end to the revolution. That is precisely the objective economic significance of a Duma ministry. The Bolsheviks, therefore, had every right and reason to say that a Duma, or responsible, ministry is in actual fact a Cadet ministry. The Mensheviks were angry and shouted about trickery, juggling, etc. But they were angry because they did not want to understand the Bolshevik arguments, which reduced the juridical fiction (a Duma ministry would be “responsible” to the monarch rather than to the Duma, to the liberal landlords rather than to the people!) to its class basis. And no matter how angry Comrade Martov may get, no matter how vehemently he may argue that even now the Duma is not a Cadet Duma, he cannot by a jot lessen the indisputable conclusion: in essence, the case is precisely one of a Cadet ministry, since that bourgeois liberal party is the gist of the matter. A possible coalition Duma ministry (Cadets, plus Octobrists, plus “non-party”, plus, even, any kind of “Trudovik” or alleged “Left”, etc.) would not in any way change the essence of the matter. To evade the essence of the matter in the way the Mensheviks and Plekhanov do means to evade-Marxism.

Support for the demand for a Duma, or “responsible”, ministry is, at bottom, support for Cadet policy in general and a Cadet ministry in particular (as was said in the first Bolshevik draft resolution for the Fifth Congress). Whoever is afraid to admit this is thereby admitting the weakness of his position, the weakness of the arguments in favour of Social-Democratic support for the Cadets in general.

We have always maintained, and still maintain, that the Social-Democrats cannot support a deal between the autoc racy and the liberal bourgeoisie, a deal that aims at putting an end to the revolution.

(2) The Mensheviks always regard a Duma ministry as a step for the better, as something that will make the further struggle for the revolution easier, and the resolution under discussion clearly expresses this idea. But in this the Men sheviks are making a mistake, are being one-sided. A Marx ist cannot guarantee the full victory of the present bour geois revolution in Russia; to do so would be bourgeois-democratic idealism and utopianism. Our task is to strive for the full victory of the revolution, but we have no right to forget that there have been in the past, and there still can be, unfinished, half-and-half bourgeois revolutions.

The Mensheviks word their resolution as though a Duma ministry were an essential stage in the struggle for a constituent assembly, etc., etc. This is quite untrue. A Marxist has no right to examine a Duma ministry from this angle alone, ignoring the objective possibility of two types of economic development in Russia. A bourgeois-democratic coup is inevitable in Russia. But it is possible if the land lord system of economy is retained and gradually changed into a Junker-capitalist (Stolypin’s and liberal agrarian reform); it is also possible if the landlord system of economy is abolished and the land handed over to the peas antry (the peasant revolution, supported by the Social-Democratic agrarian programme).

The Marxist must examine the Cadet ministry from both angles and not from one alone—as a possible stage in the struggle for a constituent assembly, and as a possible stage in the liquidation of the bourgeois revolution. It is the in tention of the Cadets and of Stolypin that the ministry should play the latter role; objective conditions are such that it can play both the latter and the former role.[5]

By forgetting the possibility (and the danger) of the liberals cutting short and stopping the bourgeois revolution, the Mensheviks are lapsing from the viewpoint of the class struggle of the proletariat into that of liberals, who paint the monarchy, land redemption payments, two chambers, the cessation of the revolution, etc., in such bright colours.

(3) Going over from the economic, class aspect of the question to the state, juridical aspect, it must be said that the Mensheviks regard a Duma ministry as a step towards parliamentarianism, as a reform that perfects the constitutional system and facilitates its use by the proletariat for its class struggle. This, again, is a one-sided point of view, one that sees only what pleases the eye. In the act of appointing ministers from the Duma majority (which is precisely what the Cadets wanted in the First Duma) one very significant feature of the reform is absent—there is no legislative recognition of certain general, changes in the constitution. The act is to a certain extent individual, even personal. It depends on bargains, negotiations and conditions behind the scenes. No wonder Rech now (March 1907!) admits that in June 1906, there were negotiations between the Constitutional-Democrats and the government that are still not (!) subject to publication. Even the Cadet Tovarishch, which sings the Cadet tune, admitted the impermissibility of this game of hide and seek. And it is not surprising that (according to newspaper reports) Pobedonostsev could propose this measure—appoint liberal, Cadet ministers and then dissolve the Duma and replace the ministry! This would not be an abolition of the reform, or a change in the law—it would be a fully “constitutional act” by the monarch. By supporting the Cadet desire for a Duma ministry the Mensheviks were, against their own wishes and their own conscience, in fact supporting negotiations and deals behind the scenes, behind the backs of the people.

In so doing, the Mensheviks did not and could not obtain any “commitments” from the Cadets. They gave them support, on credit, and brought confusion and corruption into the consciousness of the working class.

(4) Let us make another concession to the Mensheviks. Let us imagine the best possible case, i.e., that the act of appointing the Duma ministers is not only a personal act, is not merely done for show, to deceive the people, but is the first step in real constitutional reform, which actually does improve the proletariat’s conditions of struggle.

Even so the Social-Democrats cannot be justified in coming out with a slogan supporting the demand for a Duma ministry.

You say that it is a stage on the way towards improvement, that it provides the ground for the future struggle? Let us suppose that it is. But would not universal, bat indirect, suffrage also be a probable stage on the way to wards improvement? Then why not announce that Social-Democrats support the demand for universal, but indirect, suffrage, as a “stage” in the struggle for the “tetrad formula”, as “ground for the transition” to that formula? Not only would the Cadets be with us in this, but even the Party of Democratic Reform[6] and part of the Octobrists! An “all-national” stage towards the people’s struggle for a constituent assembly—that is what Social-Democratic support for universal suffrage, but indirect and not by secret ballot, would mean!

In principle, there is absolutely no difference between supporting the demand for a Duma ministry and supporting the demand for universal suffrage that is indirect and not by secret ballot.

To justify the issue of the slogan of a “responsible ministry” by saying that it is a stage towards the better, etc., means failure to understand the fundamentals of the attitude of Social-Democracy to bourgeois reformism.

Every reform is a reform (and not a reactionary and not .a conservative measure) only insofar as it constitutes a certain step, a “stage”, for the better. But every reform in capitalist society has a double character. A reform is a concession made by the ruling classes in order to stem, weaken, or conceal the revolutionary struggle, in order to split the forces and energy of the revolutionary classes, to befog their consciousness, etc.

Therefore, revolutionary Social-Democracy, while by no means renouncing the use of reforms for the purpose of developing the revolutionary class struggle (“we accept payments on account”—wir nehmen auch Abschlagszahlung, said Frederick Engels[7]), will under no circumstances make half-way bourgeois-reformist slogans “their own”.[8]

To do so would be acting exactly as Bernstein would (Plekhanov will have to rehabilitate Bernstein in order to defend his present policy! No wonder Bernstein’s periodical, Sozialistische Monatshefte, has such high praise for Plekhanov!); it would mean turning Social-Democracy into “a democratic-socialist party of reform” (Bernstein’s notorious statement in his Premises of Socialism).

Social-Democracy regards reforms, and makes use of them, as a by-product of the revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat.

And now we come to the last of our arguments against the slogan under discussion:

(5) In what way can Social-Democracy actually bring nearer the implementation of all kinds of reform in general, constitutional reforms in Russia in particular, and especially a Duma ministry with results beneficial to the proletariat? Can it do so by making the slogans of the bourgeois reformists “its own”, or by decisively refusing to make such slogans “its own” and by continuing unswervingly to conduct the revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat under the banner of complete, uncurtailed slogans? It is not difficult to answer this question.

By making bourgeois-reformist slogans that are always half-baked, always curtailed and always two-faced “our own”, we are actually not strengthening but weakening the probability, possibility and proximity of the implementation of the reform. The real force giving rise to reforms is the force of the revolutionary proletariat, of its consciousness, solidarity and unwavering determination in the struggle.

These are the qualities of the mass movement that we weaken and paralyse by giving our bourgeois-reformist slogans to the masses. The usual bourgeois sophistry says that by conceding something from our revolutionary demands and slogans (for instance, by demanding a “Duma ministry” instead of “sovereignty of the people”, or a constituent assembly as a “stage”, etc.), we are making it more probable that this lesser measure will be implemented, since both the proletariat and part of the bourgeoisie will be in favour of it.

International Social-Democracy says that this is bourgeois sophistry, because we thereby lessen the probability of a reform being implemented; because, in trying to win the sympathies of the bourgeoisie, which continually makes concessions against its will, we are lessening the revolutionary consciousness of the masses, are blunting and corrupting that consciousness. We are adapting ourselves to the bourgeoisie, to its deal with the monarchy, and thereby harming the development of the revolutionary struggle of the masses. In consequence of all this, the reforms are either non-existent on account of these tactics or they are an unadulterated deception. The only sound basis for re forms, the one serious guarantee that they will not be fictitious, will be used for the benefit of the people, is the independent revolutionary struggle of the proletariat that does not lower the level of its slogans.

Since June 1906, the Mensheviks have been offering the masses a slogan in support of the demand for a Duma ministry. By so doing, they weaken and blunt the revolutionary consciousness of the masses, reduce the scope of agitation, decrease the probability of this reform being implemented and the possibility of its being used.

We must increase revolutionary agitation among the masses; we must give wider scope to our full-fledged, uncurtailed slogans; we must develop them clearly—in this way, we shall at best bring nearer the full victory of the revolution, and at worst we shall capture some hill-concessions (such as a Duma ministry, universal, but indirect, suffrage, etc.) and give ourselves the possibility of turning them into a weapon of the revolution. Reforms are a by product of the class struggle of the revolutionary proletariat. To make it “our own” business to obtain this by-product would mean lapsing into liberal bourgeois reformism.

* *


The last point of the resolution:

“V. Regarding activities in the Duma as one of the forms of class struggle, the Social-Democratic group in the Duma retains complete independence, in each individual case entering into agreement with those parties that are interested in the struggle against the old regime for the triumph of political liberty, for aggressive action with those parties and groups whose aims at a given moment coincide with the aims of the proletariat, and for defensive action intended to preserve popular representation itself and its rights.”

The second part of this is as bad and outlandish as the first part (as far as the word “entering”) is good.

What is this ridiculous differentiation between “aggressive” and “defensive” action? Are our Mensheviks not recalling the language of Russkiye Vedomosti in the nineties of the last century, when the liberals tried to prove that liberalism in Russia does the “protecting” and that reaction is “aggressive”? Just imagine: instead of the “old” division of political action into revolutionary and reformist, revolutionary and counter-revolutionary, parliamentary and extra-parliamentary, Marxists are offering us a new classification—“defensive” action “protects” what we have, “aggressive” action goes farther! Have you got a shred of conscience, Menshevik comrades? To what extent must one lose all feeling for the revolutionary class struggle before one can fail to notice the vulgar flavour of this differentiation between the “aggressive” and the “defensive”!

And how amusingly, like an object in a distorting mirror, does this helpless formulation reflect the bitter truth (bitter for the Mensheviks) that they will not openly admit! The Mensheviks are in the habit of talking about parties in general, and are afraid to name them or clearly delineate them; they are in the habit of casting the veil of generic names over them—“oppositional-democratic parties”— over Cadets and Lefts alike. Now they feel that a change is coming. They feel that the liberals are now actually capable of doing nothing more than protect (by means of genuflexion, in the same way as Russkiye Vedomosti “protected” the Zemstvos[9] in the eighties!) the existing Duma and the existing (pardon the word) “constitution” of ours. The Mensheviks feel that the liberal bourgeoisie cannot and does not want to go farther (be “aggressive”—since such nasty terms exist!). And the Mensheviks have displayed this vague consciousness of the true in amusing and extremely confused wording that means literally that the Social-Democrats are capable, at some time, of entering into an agreement for action “whose aims” do not coincide with the aims of the proletariat!

This final chord of the Menshevik resolution, this amusing fear of telling the truth openly and clearly—i.e., that the liberal bourgeoisie, the Constitutional-Democrats, have completely ceased to help the revolution—magnificently expresses the whole spirit of the resolution under consideration.

Instead of an Afterword[edit source]

The above lines had been written when I received the resolution passed by the February (1907) Conference of the League of the Estonian Area of the RSDLP[10]

Two Menshevik comrades, M. and A., spoke (presumably from the Central Committee) at this conference. During the discussion on the question of the State Duma they apparently tabled that very resolution that I have analysed above. It will be extremely instructive to see what amendments the Estonian Social-Democrat comrades made to this resolution. Here is the resolution in full, as passed by the conference:

On the Attitude to the State Duma[edit source]

“The State Duma has neither the authority nor the force to satisfy the needs of the people because power is still in the hands of the enemies of the people, the tsarist autocracy, the bureaucracy and a handful of landlords. The Social-Democrats, therefore, must ruthlessly destroy the illusory hopes of the present State Duma having legislative powers, and make it clear to the people that only an authoritative all-national constituent assembly, freely elected by the people after the tsarist autocracy has been overthrown, will be capable of meeting the people’s demands.

“For the purpose of developing the class-consciousness of the proletariat, for the political education of the masses of the people, for the development and organisation of the revolutionary forces, Social-Democracy must make use even of this impotent, helpless State Duma. In view of this, Social-Democracy participates in the activities of the State Duma on the following terms:

“I. Proceeding from the interests of the urban and rural proletariat and from the principles of consistent democratism, Social-Democracy criticises all proposals and hills submitted by the government and the bourgeois parties and also the state budget, and opposes them with its own demands and bills, and in so doing proceeds always from the demands and needs of broad masses of the people, and by such activity exposes the effeteness of the existing system and the class contradictions of bourgeois society.

“II. Social-Democracy uses the right of interpellation in order to lay bare the essence and nature of the present government and to show the people that all the latter’s activity is contrary to the interests of the people, in order to make clear the underprivileged position of the working class and throw light on the role played by the government and the ruling classes and by the parties they support, in respect of the working class. Among other things, Social-Democracy must struggle against the Cadet Party, with its compromises and treachery, and unmask its half-heartedness and hypocritical democratism in order to liberate the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie from its leadership and influence and compel them to follow the proletariat.

“III. In the State Duma, Social-Democracy, as the party of the working class, must always act independently. Social-Democracy must conclude no permanent agreements or pacts that might hamper its freedom of action with other revolutionary or opposition parties in the Duma. In individual cases, when the aims and measures of other parties coincide with those of Social-Democracy, the latter can and must enter into negotiations with other parties on those measures.

“IV. Insofar as the people cannot come to any agreements with the present feudal-minded government, and insofar as only an authoritative constituent assembly would be in a position to meet the people’s demands and needs, the conference is of the opinion that the struggle for a ministry responsible to the present impotent Duma Is not the task of the proletariat. The proletariat must fight under the flag of a constituent assembly and not under that of a responsible ministry.

“V. While conducting this struggle, the Social-Democratic group in the State Duma must bind itself by the closest ties to the proletarian and other masses outside the Duma and, by assisting these masses to organise, must build up a revolutionary army for the over throw of the autocracy.”

No comment is required. In my article I have tried to show how resolutions like the one I have dealt with should not be written. In their resolution the Estonian revolutionary Social-Democrats have shown how unsuitable resolutions should be amended.

  1. The two words are somewhat similar in Russian, one having the prefix voz- and the other the prefix vy-.—Tr.
  2. See pp. 137-38 of this volume—Ed.
  3. Council of State—one of the highest state bodies in pre-revolutionary Russia. It was founded in 1810 by M. M. Speransky as ass advisory legislative body whose members were appointed or approved by the tsar. By the law of February 20 (March 5), 1906, the Council of State was reconstituted and granted the formal rights of an “upper legislative chamber” which examined and approved bills after they had been discussed in the State Duma. The right to amend basic laws and promulgate a number of especially important laws was, however, retained by the tsar.
    From 1906 onwards half of the Council of State consisted of elected members from the nobility, the clergy and the big bourgeoisie, and the other half of high-ranking government officials was appointed by the tsar. On account of this composition the Council of State was an extremely reactionary body which rejected even the moderate bills passed by the State Duma.
  4. I ask the reader to bear in mind the necessity for the correction to this word I made earlier in the article.—Lenin
  5. We make the very best assumption for Plekhanov and the Mensheviks, i.e., that the Cadets will put forward the demand for a Duma ministry. It is more probahie that they will not do so. Then Plekhanov (and the Mensheviks) will he as ridiculous on account of his “sup port” for a slogan the liberals have not advanced, as he was with his “Duma with full powers”.—Lenin
  6. See Note 59.
  7. This quotation is taken from Engels’s letter to F. Turati on “The Future Italian Revolution and the Socialist Party” (see Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, p. 553).
  8. Plekhanov in Russkaya Zhizn: “.... Social-Democratic deputies must make the above demand [“a responsible ministry”] their own in the interests of the people, in the interests of the revolution.—Lenin
  9. Zemstvo—the name given to the local government bodies formed in the central provinces of tsarist Russia in 1864. They were dominated by the nobility and their powers were limited to purely local economic problems (hospital and road building, statistics, insurance, etc.). Their activities were controlled by the Provincial Governors and by the Ministry of the Interior, which could rescind any decisions of which the government disapproved.
  10. The League of the Estonian Area of the RSDLP held its conference in the second half of February 1907. It was attended by 18 delegates with the right to vote from the Social-Democratic organisations in the towns of Bevel and Narva and the Estonian rural Social-Democratic organisations. There were also three delegates from St. Petersburg and Riga with the right to vote on questions of propaganda and agitation in the Estonian language.
    The conference adopted resolutions on: military organisations and combat groups, the agrarian question, the trade unions, the attitude to other local parties, the attitude to the State Duma and the Rules of the League of the Estonian Area of the RSDLP