On the “Nature” of the Russian Revolution
|Written||26 March 1908|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1973, Moscow, Volume 15, pages 22-28
Drive Nature out of the door and she will fly in at the window, exclaims the Cadet Rech in a recent editorial. This valuable admission of the official organ of our counter revolutionary liberals needs to be particularly emphasised, because what is referred to is the nature of the Russian revolution. And one cannot sufficiently insist on the force with which events are confirming the basic view of Bolshevism as to this “nature” of the peasant bourgeois revolution, which cm win only in opposition to wavering, wobbling, counter-revolutionary bourgeois liberalism.
At the beginning of 1906, prior to the First Duma, Mr. Struve wrote: “The peasant in the Duma will be a Cadet.” At that time this was the bold assertion of a liberal who still dreamt of re-educating the muzhik from a naïve monarchist into a supporter of the opposition. It was at a time when Russkoye Gosudarstvo, the organ of the bureaucracy, the newspaper of the lackeys of Mr. Witte, was assuring its readers that “the muzhik will help us out”, i.e., that broad representation of the peasants would prove favourable for the autocracy. Such opinions were so widespread in those days (remote days! two whole years divide us from them!) that even in the Mensheviks’ speeches at the Stockholm Congress kindred notes were clearly heard.
But the First Duma had dispelled these illusions of the monarchists and the illusions of the liberals completely. The most ignorant, undeveloped, politically virgin, unorganised muzhik proved to be incomparably more left than the Cadets. The struggle of the Cadets against the “Trudovik spirit” and Trudovik politics’s formed the main content of liberal “activity” during the first two Dumas. And when after the Second Duma had been dissolved, Mr. Struve—an advanced man among the liberal counter-revolutionaries— hurled his angry judgements on the Trudoviks, and proclaimed a crusade against the “intellectualist” leaders of the peasantry who were “playing at radicals”, he was there by expressing the utter bankruptcy of liberalism.
The experience of the two Dumas brought liberalism a complete fiasco. It did not succeed in “taming the muzhik”. It did not succeed in making him modest, tractable, ready for compromise with the landlord autocracy. The liberalism of the bourgeois lawyers, professors and other intellectualist trash could not “adjust itself” to the “Trudovik” peasantry. It turned out to be politically and economically far behind them. And the whole historic significance of the first period of the Russian revolution may be summed up as follows: liberalism has already conclusively demonstrated its counter-revolutionary nature, its incapacity to lead the peasant revolution; the peasantry has not yet fully understood that it is only along the path of revolution and republic, under the guidance of the socialist proletariat, that a real victory can be won.
The bankruptcy of liberalism meant the triumph of the reactionary landlords. Today, intimidated by those reactionaries, humiliated and spat upon by them, transformed into a serf-bound accomplice of Stolypin’s constitutional farce, liberalism will shed an occasional tear for the past. Of course the fight against the Trudovik spirit was hard, unbearably hard. But ... all the same ... may we not win a second time, if that spirit rises again? May we not then play the part of a broker more successfully? Did not our great and famous Pyotr Struve write, even before the revolution, that the middle parties always gained from the sharpening of the struggle between extremes?
And lo, the liberals, exhausted in struggle with the Trudoviks, are playing against the reactionaries the card of a revival of the Trudovik spirit! “The Land Bills just introduced into the Duma by the Right-wing peasants and the clergy,” writes Rech in the same editorial, “reveal the old Trudovik spirit: Trudovik and not Cadet.” “One Bill belongs to the peasants and is signed by 41 members of the Duma. The other belongs to the clergy. The former is more radical than the latter, but the latter, too, in some respects [listen to the Cadet Rech!] leaves the Cadet draft of agrarian reform far behind.” The liberals are obliged to admit that, alter all the filtering of the electors undertaken and carried out in accordance with the notorious law of June 3, this fact (as we already noted in No. 22 of Proletary) is evidence not of some accident, but of the nature of the Russian revolution.
The peasants, writes Rech, have a distributable land reserve not in the sense of a transmitting agency, “but in the sense of a permanent institution”. The Cadets admit this, but modestly keep silent about the fact that they themselves, while playing up to the reactionaries and cringing to them, in the interim between the First and Second Dumas threw the distributable land reserve out of their programme (i. e., in one way or another, the recognition of land nationalisation) and adopted Gurko’s point of view, namely, full private ownership of the land.
The peasants, writes Rech, buy land at a fair valuation (i. e., in the Cadet fashion) but—and a momentous “but” this is—the valuation is to be made by the local land institutions “elected by the whole population of the locality concerned”.
And once again the Cadets have to keep quiet about one aspect. They have to keep quiet about the fact that this election by the whole population obviously resembles the well-known “Trudovik” Bill in the First Duma and the Second—the Bill providing for local land committees elected on the basis of universal, direct and equal suffrage by secret ballot. They have to keep quiet about how the liberals in the first two Dumas carried on a disgusting struggle against this Bill, which was the only possible one from a democratic point of view: how abjectly they turned and twisted, wishing not to say from the Duma rostrum everything they had said in their press—in the leading article of Rech later reprinted by Milyukov ("A Year of Struggle”), in Kutler’s draft and in Chuprov’s article (the Cadet “Agrarian Question”, Volume 2). And what they admitted in their press was that according to their idea the local land committees should consist of an equal number of representatives of the peasantry and of the landlords, with a representative of the government, as a third party. In other words, the Cadets were betraying the muzhik to the landlord, by assuring that everywhere the latter would have the majority (the landlords plus a representative of the landlord autocracy are always in a majority against the peasants).
We quite understand the swindlers of parliamentary bourgeois liberalism having to keep quiet about all this. They are wrong, thought in thinking that the workers and peasants are likely to forget these most important landmarks on the road of the Russian revolution.
Even the clergy—those ultra-reactionaries, those Black-Hundred obscurantists purposely maintained by the government—have gone further than the Cadets in their agrarian Bill. Even they have begun talking about lowering the “artificially inflated prices” of land, and about a progressive land tax in which holdings not exceeding the subsistence standard would be free of tax. Why has the village priest— that policeman of official orthodoxy—proved to be more on the side of the peasant than the bourgeois liberal? Because the village priest has to live side by side with the peasant, to depend on him in a thousand different ways, and some times—as when the priests practice small-scale peasant agriculture on church land—even to be in a peasant’s skin himself. The village priest will have to return from the most police-ridden Duma into his own village: and however greatly the village has been purged by Stolypin’s punitive expeditions and chronic billeting of the soldiery, there is no return to it for those who have taken the side of the landlords. So it turns out that the most reactionary priest finds it more difficult than the enlightened lawyer and professor to betray the peasant to the landlord.
Yes, indeed! Drive Nature out of the door and she will fly in at the window. The nature of the great bourgeois revolution in peasant Russia is such that only the victory of a peasant uprising, unthinkable without the proletariat as guide, is capable of bringing that revolution to victory in the teeth of the congenital counter revolutionism of the bourgeois liberals.
It remains for the liberals either to disbelieve the strength of the Trudovik spirit—and that is impossible when the facts stare them in the face—or else to pin their faith on some new political trickery. And here is the programme of that piece of trickery in the concluding words of Rech: "Only serious practical provisions for this kind of reform [namely, agrarian reform “on the broadest democratic basis"] can cure the population of utopian attempts.” This may be read as follows. Mr. Stolypin, Your Excellency, even with all your gallows and your June Third laws you have not “cured” the population of its “utopian Trudovik spirit”. Allow us to try just once more. We shall promise the people the widest democratic reform, and in practice will “cure” them by means of buying out the land from the landlords and giving the latter a majority in the local land institutions!
On our part, we shall thank Messrs. Milyukov, Struve and Co. from the bottom of our hearts for the zeal with which they are “curing” the population of its “utopian” belief in peaceful constitutional methods. They are curing it and, in all probability, will effect a final cure
- Rech (Speech)—a daily newspaper, central organ of the Constitutional-Democratic Party, published in St. Petersburg from February 1906. It was closed down by the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet on October 26 (November 5), 1917.
- Russkoye Gosudarstvo (The Russian State)—a government newspaper founded by S. Witte, published in St. Petersburg from February 1(14) to May 15(28), 1906.
- The Stockholm Congress— the Fourth (Unity) Congress of the RSDLP, was held in Stockholm on April 10-25 (April 23-May 8), 1906. It was attended by 112 voting delegates representing 57 local organisations of the Party, and 22 delegates with a consultative voice. In addition there were representatives from the national Social-Democratic parties of Poland and Lithuania, Latvia and the Bund. Many Bolshevik organisations had been smashed up by the government after the armed uprising of December 1905 and were unable to send their delegates to the Congress. The Mensheviks had a majority (albeit a small one) at the Congress.
Lenin spoke at the Congress on the agrarian question, the current situation, the tactics in regard to the elections to the Duma, the armed uprising and other issues.
The preponderance of Mensheviks at the Congress determined the character of its decisions. On a number of questions the Congress adopted Menshevik resolutions (the agrarian programme, the attitude towards the Duma, etc.).
The Congress adopted Lenin’s formulation of Clause I of the Party Rules dealing with Party membership. It admitted to membership of the RSDLP the non-Russian Social-Democratic organisation of Poland and Lithuania and the Lettish S.D.L.P., and laid down the conditions on which the Bund could join the RSDLP
The Central Committee elected at the Congress consisted of three Bolsheviks and seven Mensheviks The editorial board of the Central Organ was formed entirely of Mensheviks.
The work of this Congress was analysed by Lenin in his Report on the Unity Congress of the RSDLP (see present edition, Vol. 10, pp. 317-82).
- Cadets—members of the Constitutional-Democratic Party, the chief party of the Russian liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie. The Cadet Party was founded in October 1905, its membership consisting of representatives of the bourgeoisie, Zemstvo functionaries from among the landlords, and bourgeois intellectuals. Among the more prominent Cadet leaders were P. N. Milyukov, S. A. Muromtsev, V. A. Maklakov, A. I. Shingaryov, P. B. Struve and F. I. Rodichev. The Cadets called themselves the “party of the people’s freedom” in order to mislead the working masses. In reality they never went beyond the demand for a constitutional monarchy. Their main task they considered to be the fight against the revolutionary movement, and they aimed at sharing the power with the tsar and the feudalist landlords.
During the First World War the Cadets actively supported the tsarist government’s foreign policy of conquest. During the bourgeois-democratic revolution of February 1917 they tried to save the monarchy. In the bourgeois Provisional Government, where they held key positions, they pursued a counter-revolutionary policy opposed to the interests of the people but favourable to the U. S., British and French imperialists. After the victory of the October Socialist Revolution the Cadets were the sworn enemies of the Soviet power and participated in all armed counter-revolutionary actions and the campaigns of the interventionists. When the interventionists and whiteguards were defeated the Cadets fled the country and continued their anti-Soviet counter-revolutionary activity from abroad.
- Trudovik politics (from the word trud—"labour”)—this refers to the Trudovik group of petty-bourgeois democrats formed from peasant deputies to the First Duma in April 1906. At the start of the Duma proceedings this group united 107 deputies. In the Second Duma the Trudoviks had 104, in the Third 14 and in the Fourth 10 deputies. The Trudoviks demanded the abolition of all class and national restrictions, the democratisation of the Zemstvo and urban self-governing bodies, and the introduction of universal suffrage in the elections to the Duma. Their agrarian programme was based on the Narodnik principles of equalised land tenure—the establishment of a distributable land fund consisting of state, crown, and monastery lands as well as privately-owned lands where they exceeded an established trudovoy, or labour, norm; compensation was envisaged for alienated land under private ownership. The implementation of the agrarian reform was to be entrusted to the local peasant committees.
- See present edition, Vol. 13, pp. 455-59.—Ed.
- Gurko, V. I.—Deputy Minister of the Interior.