Preface to the Pamphlet Memorandum of Police Department Superintendent Lopukhin
Published: First published in 1905 in the pamphlet Memorandum of Police Department Superintendent Lopukhin. Published by Vperyod Geneva. Signed: N. LENIN. Published according to the text of the pamphlet.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 8, pages 202-205.
There can be too much of a good thing, or so Mr. Lopukhin seems to say in his memorandum. A good thing from the point of view of the police is the “temporary” Security Regulations, which, since 1881, have been one of the most stable fundamental laws of the Russian Empire. The police are given all kinds of rights and powers to “keep the populace in hand”, according to the apt expression of the memorandum, which is all the more striking the more often one stumbles over the incredibly ponderous and clumsy official turns of speech in which the memorandum is written. Yes, the police have lived in clover under these “Regulations”, but their “good” features have spoiled them. That is one aspect of the matter. Another is the fact that the emergency measures of suppression, which may have seemed extraordinary twenty-five years ago, have since become so ordinary that the population has adjusted itself to them, so to speak. The repressive significance of these emergency measures has weakened, just as a new spring weakens from long and excessive use. The game is not worth the candle, Mr. Lopukhin, Superintendent of the Police Department, implies in his memorandum, which is written in a curiously melancholy and dismal tone.
How gratifying to a Social-Democrat is this dismal tone, this dry, business-like, yet nonetheless devastating criticism by a police official of Russia’s fundamental police law. Gone are the palmy days of policedom! Gone are the sixties, when the very existence of a revolutionary party was unthought of. Gone are the seventies, when the strength of such a party, whose existence was an undoubted and terrifying fact, was “only equal to individual acts of violence, but not to a political revolution”. In those days, when “underground agitation found support only among individual persons or circles”, the newly invented spring could still produce some effect. But how slack this spring has now become, “in the present state of society, when dissatisfaction with the existing order of things and a strong opposition movement are be coming so widespread in Russia”! How absurd and meaning less these emergency security measures proved to be when they had to be, actually had to he, applied in thousands of cases “against workers for engaging in strikes of a peaceful nature and purely economic in motive”, when even cobble stones had to be classed as dangerous political weapons!
In his despair, poor Lopukhin resorts to a double exclamation mark, which invites Messieurs the Ministers to join him in laughing at the absurd consequences to which the Security Regulations have led. Everything in these Regulations has proved useless ever since the revolutionary movement really penetrated among the people and became inseparably bound up with the class movement of the working masses—everything, from the rules requiring the registration of passports to the military tribunals. Even the “institution of house janitors”, that blessed godsend to the police, is scathingly criticised by the Polizei-Minister, who accuses it of having an enervating effect on the preventive activities of the police.
In truth, the complete bankruptcy of the police regime! This bankruptcy is confirmed, apart from the assertions of such a highly competent person as the most honourable Mr. Lopukhin, by the entire course of development of the tsarist policy. When there was no really popular revolutionary movement, when the political struggle was not yet connected and integrated with the class struggle, simple police measures against individuals and study circles had their use. Against classes these measures proved ludicrously in effective; by their very profusion they became a hindrance to the work of the police. The once awesome clauses of the Security Regulations have proved to be just miserable, petty, quibbling chicaneries, which tend to stir up discontent among the “plain people” ’who do not belong to the revolutionariea rather than seriously to affect the revolutionaries them selves. Against the people’s revolution, against the class struggle the police cannot be depended on; one must have the backing of the people, too, the support of classes. Such is the moral of Mr. Lopukhin’s memorandum. And such is the moral which the autocratic government is drawing from practical experience. The springs of the police machinery have lost their snap; military force alone is now insufficient. One must stir up national hatred, race hatred; one must recruit “Black Hundreds” from among the politically least developed sections of the urban (and, following that, naturally, of the rural) petty bourgeoisie; one must attempt to rally to the defence of the throne all reactionary elements among the population at large; one must turn the struggle of the police against study circles into a struggle of one part of the people against the other.
That is precisely what the government is now doing when it sets the Tatars against the Armenians in Baku; when it seeks to provoke new pogroms against the Jews; when it organises Black-Hundred gangs against the Zemstvo people, students, and rebellious Gymnasium youths; and when it appeals to the loyal nobles and to the conservative elements among the peasants. Ah, well! We Social-Democrats are not surprised at these tactics of the autocracy; nor shall we be frightened by them. We know that it will no longer help the government to stir up racial animosity since the workers have begun to organise armed resistance to the pogrom-bandits; and by relying on the exploiting sections of the petty bourgeoisie the government will only antagonise still broader masses of real proletarians. We have never expected any political or social revolutions to come from “convincing” the powers that be, or from educated persons turning to the paths of “virtue”. We have always taught that it is the class struggle, the struggle of the exploited part of the people against the exploiters, that lies at the bottom of political transformations and in the final analysis determines the fate of all such transformations. By admitting the complete failure of the pettifogging police methods and passing over to the direct organisation of civil war, the government shows that the final reckoning is approaching. So much the better. It is launching the civil war. So much the better. We, too, are for the civil war. If there is any sphere in which we feel particularly confident, it is here, in the war of the vast masses of the oppressed and the downtrodden, of the toiling millions who keep the whole of society going, against a handful of privileged parasites. Of course, by fanning racial antagonism and tribal hatred, the government may for a time arrest the development of the class struggle, but only for a short time and at the cost of a still greater expansion of the field of the new struggle, at the cost of a more bitter feeling among the people against the autocracy. This is proved by the consequences of the Baku pogrom, which deepened tenfold the revolutionary mood of all sections against tsarism. The government thought to frighten the people by the sight of bloodshed and the vast toll of street battles; but actually it is dispelling the people’s fear of bloodshed, of a direct armed encounter. Actually, the government is furthering our cause, with agitation of a scope wider and more impressive than we could ever have dreamed of. Vive le son du canon! say we in the words of the French revolutionary song: “Hail the thunder of the cannon!” Hail the revolution! Hail the open war of the people against the tsarist government and its adherents!
- Black Hundreds—a reactionary, monarchist, pogrom-making organisation set up by the tsarist police to combat the revolutionary movement. They murdered revolutionaries, assaulted progressive intellectuals, and organised anti-Jewish pogroms.