Liberals and Clericals

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The priesthood is about to flood the Fourth Duma.

How are we to react to this emergence of the priests on the political scene?

Democrats can never hold the view that priests should not participate in political affairs. It is an arch-reactionary view. It leads only to official hypocrisy and nothing more. In practice, all measures debarring a particular group or section of the population from politics and the class struggle are absolutely impossible and unrealisable.

Let us recall that Bebel and the German Social-Democrats were for freedom of Jesuit agitation in Germany. We are against liberal phrases about “prohibiting” Jesuit agitation, said the Social-Democrats. We are not afraid of the Jesuits. Let the Jesuits enjoy complete freedom of agitation, but let the authorities guarantee that we Social-Democrats, too, shall enjoy complete freedom of agitation. That is how Bebel and the German Social-Democrats reasoned.

The worker democrats in Russia are fighting against the falsification of suffrage (and all other rights) in favour of the landlords or the priesthood, etc., and not at all against freedom of the priesthood to participate in political affairs. We stand for the class struggle, and we demand complete freedom for any class or social-estate, for either sex, for any people, any section or group of the population, to take part in politics.

The liberals’ reasoning on this question is wrong and undemocratic. Prince Trubetskoi, for example, wrote not so long ago, to the applause of Rech:

“The transformation of the Church into a political instrument is achieved at the price of its internal destruction.” He described the plan of flooding the Duma with priests as “contrary to Christianity and the Church”.

That is not true. It is hypocrisy. It is a thoroughly reactionary point of view.

Trubetskoi and other liberals take an undemocratic stand in their struggle against clericalism. Under the guise of opposing participation of the priesthood in the political struggle, they advocate its more covert (and hence much more harmful) participation.

Worker democrats favour freedom of political struggle for all, including the priests. We are opposed, not to the priests taking part in the election campaign, in the Duma, etc., but solely to the medieval privileges of the priesthood. We are not afraid of clericalism, and will readily join issue with it—on a free platform on which all will be on an equal footing. The priesthood has always participated in politics covertly; the people stand to gain, and to gain a good deal, if the priesthood begins to participate in politics overtly.