The Bloc of the Cadets with the Progressists and its Significance
|Written||29 March 1912|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 17, pages 551-555.
Several days ago the newspapers carried the story of a conference of “independent Progressists” on the one hand, and Cadets on the other, held in Moscow on March 18.
A semi-official editorial in the semi-official Cadet Rech (of March 21) confirms that the conference Was held and gives it its appraisal. Even a superficial study of this appraisal is sufficient to enable one to grasp the carefully concealed nature of the matter and to realise the disguise which serves to keep up appearances.
The point is that both the Progressists and the Cadets are opposition groups, and “belong to that section of the opposition which is described as ‘responsible’”. This is what Rech says. Hence, the Cadets cannot help admitting that there are two “sections” within the opposition: one which deserves the title “responsible”, and another which does not. This admission of the Cadets brings us at once to the main point.
By referring to themselves as the “responsible” opposition, which is even more often and better described by Milyukov’s celebrated “London” slogans about an opposition in the possessive case, the Cadets set themselves and similar groups apart from the democratic movement, i. e., from the Trudoviks and the workers. Actually, the term “responsible opposition” is used to describe the liberal-monarchist bourgeois Centre, which stands midway between democracy on the one hand and autocracy with the feudal landowners on the other. This bourgeois liberal-monarchist Centre, which dreads consistent democracy even more than so-called “reaction”, appeared in the Russian political arena long ago. It has such a long and instructive history behind it that we must not allow ourselves to be deceived with regard to its true nature and still less to keep silent or plead ignorance about it.
This Centre became quite clearly indicated in the epoch of the decline of serfdom. During the interval of almost half a century separating that epoch from 1905, the influence of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie in the Zemstvos, in the municipalities, in the schools, and in the press, grew and developed to a considerable degree. The crisis of the old regime in 1905 and the open action of all the classes in Russia gave final form to the liberal-monarchist bourgeois Centre and embodied it in parties representing its right flank (the Octobrists) and its left flank (the Cadets). The separation of this Centre from democracy was extremely pronounced and existed in all fields of public activity and at all “sharp turns” in 1905–07; however, not all the democrats and even not all working-class democrats have grasped the essence and the meaning of this separation.
The Russian bourgeoisie is tied by thousands of economic threads to the old landowning nobility and to the old bureaucracy. In addition to this, the working class of Russia has shown that it is quite independent and capable of taking care of itself; more, it has shown itself capable of leading democracy in spite of the liberals. That is why our bourgeoisie has turned liberal-monarchist and anti-democratic, anti-popular, in fact. That is why it dreads democracy more than reaction. That is why it is constantly vacillating, manoeuvring, betraying the former in favour of the latter. That is why it turned counter-revolutionary after 1905 and obtained a “nook” for itself in the June Third system. The Octobrists (with the permission and under the supervision of the Purishkeviches) have become a government party, while the Cadets have assumed the role of a tolerated opposition.
The decision of the Cadet conference to permit blocs with the “Left” (don’t laugh!) Octobrists, and the present “informal” amalgamation of the Cadets with the “independent Progressists” are links in a single long chain, stages in the development of the liberal-monarchist bourgeois Centre.
But on the eve of the elections the opposition has to cloak itself in “democratic” attire. The Cadet who is out to catch not only the votes of the big and middle bourgeoisie, but also those of the democratic petty bourgeoisie, shop assistants, etc., must stress that he is a member of the “people’s freedom party”, a “Constitutional-Democrat”, no less! On the eve of the elections, and for the sake of the elections, the Cadet Party, actually representing a moderate brand of monarchist liberalism, dresses itself in democratic finery and throws a veil over its rapprochement with the “independent Progressists” and “Left” Octobrists.
This explains the numerous contortions and diplomatic subterfuges we find in Rech, its high-flown statements that “the people’s freedom party will not adapt itself to circumstances”, and so on and so forth. Of course, all this is merely funny. For the entire history of the Cadet Party is nothing but a mockery of its programme, nothing but “adaptation” to circumstances in the worst sense of the term. “Given different political conditions,” writes Rech, “under which the people’s freedom party would be in a position to voice in the legislative body its entire programme, the so-called ‘Progressists’ would, of course, be its antagonists, just as they were at the more acute occasions in the recent past.”
That the period of the Second Duma was a more acute occasion—that is something the Cadet gentlemen will hardly venture to dispute. However, not only the Progressists, but even elements more to the right, far from opposing the Cadets, were their allies against the democrats. Furthermore, in the Third Duma the democrats made statements that went far beyond any clause in the programme of the Cadets, hence, the Cadet Party was fully “in a position to voice... its entire programme” even in a “legislative body” like the Third Duma! If the Constitutional-Democratic Party refrained from doing so, it is by no means the “political conditions” that are to blame (don’t say, “I can’t”, say “I shan’t!”), but the utter alienation of the Cadets from democracy. The Cadets could have voiced their entire programme, but it was their own estrangement from democracy, their own turn to the right that prevented them from doing so.
The arguments of the Rech editorial on the bloc with the Progressists is one of the numerous examples of the ease with which the leaders of the Cadet Party, Milyukov and others, can lead the few “Left” Cadets by the nose. They feed the Left Cadets fine words, use flashy catchwords about “democracy” to appease the Kolyubakins, and at the same time actually Conduct their policy in a purely anti-democratic spirit, in the spirit of a rapprochement, of merging with the Progressists and Left Octobrists. The Cadet Party has introduced exactly the same kind of “division of labour” we see among all the West-European bourgeois parliamentarians: the Kolyubakins and other “Left Cadets” speak of “liberty” to the people, while in parliament, in its practical policies, the Cadet Party is entirely at one with the most moderate liberals.
“The new group,” write the liquidators referring to the Progressists, “only seals and aggravates the political amorphism, the political confusion of the bourgeois voters, which is at the root of the political helplessness of the Russian bourgeoisie.
The political helplessness of the Russian bourgeoisie is by no means caused by the “amorphism” of the “bourgeois voters”—only Left-Cadet illusion-mongers can think so; it is caused by economic conditions, owing to which the bourgeoisie is an enemy of the workers and a slave of the Purishkeviches, a slave who never goes further than grumbling and expressing pious wishes.
The Left-Cadet parliamentarians, whether actuated by an idealist theory of politics or by a vulgar fear of losing the votes of the Left-inclined voters embittered by the Purishkeviches, may conduct their struggle against the official Cadet Party by arguments to the effect that it is high time to listen to reason, recall the programme, take up the cudgels against amorphism, philistinism, unprincipledness, and so on and so forth, in line with the usual bourgeois-democratic phrases.
The Marxists are waging a fight against Cadets of all shades, basing themselves on the materialist theory of politics, explaining the class interests of the bourgeoisie as a whole, which impel it towards a liberal-monarchist programme, towards a rapprochement with the Progressists and “Left” Octobrists. Our response, therefore, will not be to appeal to Cadet “reason”, to Cadet “memory”, or to Cadet “principles”, but to explain to the people why the liberals are becoming counter-revolutionaries and are breaking with democrats. We shall not exclaim: Will the Cadets listen to reason at last, will they recall their programme? We shall say: Will the democrats realise, at last, what a deep gulf separates them from the counter-revolutionary liberals—the Cadets? Will those whose economic interests do not fetter them to the landowning nobility, or to the soft jobs and revenues of the bureaucracy, the bar, etc., realise that, if the people’s freedom is really dear to them, they must join the working-class democratic movement against the Rights and against the Constitutional Democratic Party?
- This refers to the expression “His Majesty’s Opposition” used by P. Milyukov, the leader of the Cadet Party. In a speech delivered at a Lord Mayor’s luncheon in London on June 19 (July 2), 1909, he stated: “As long as there is a legislative chamber that controls the budget in Russia, the Russian Opposition, will remain His Majesty’s Opposition, and not an Opposition to His Majesty”. (Rech, No. 167, June 21 [July 4], 1909.)