The Duma and the Approval of the Budget
|Written||27 March 1907|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 306-311.
Approval of the budget by the Duma is a question of extremely serious political significance. According to the letter of the law, the Duma’s rights are insignificant, and the government is not bound by the Duma’s consent to its actions. In fact, however, the government does in certain measure depend on the Duma’s approval of the budget; everybody admits this, it is particularly stressed by the liberal bourgeoisie—the Cadets—who are inclined to substitute flamboyant phrases about that dependence for a definition of the modest bounds of that modest dependence. The government needs money, a loan is essential. And it will either be unable at all to float a loan without the Duma’s direct or indirect consent, or, if it is able to do so, it will be with great difficulty and on such adverse terms that the situation will be considerably worsened.
Under such conditions, it is quite obvious that the Duma’s discussion of the budget and voting on it will have double political significance. In the first place, the Duma must open the eyes of the people to all the methods employed in that organised robbery, that systematic, unconscionable plunder of national property by a handful of landlords, civil servants and all kinds of parasites, plunder which is called “the state economy” of Russia. To explain this from the Duma rostrum is to help the people in their struggle for “people’s freedom” that the Balalaikins of Russian liberalism chatter so much about. Whatever fate has in store for the Duma and whatever the immediate steps and “intentions” of the government may be—in any case, only the political consciousness and good organisation of the masses of the people will, in the final analysis, decide the outcome of the struggle for freedom. He who does not realise this has no right to call himself a democrat.
Secondly, ruthless and open criticism of the budget and consistently democratic voting on it are of importance to Europe and European capital, even to the wide strata of European middle and petty bourgeoisie who lend money to the Russian Government of the Stolypins. Bankers and other magnates of international capital lend money to Messrs. Stolypin & Co. to get profit out of it, in the same way as any other usurer “risks” his money. If they are not certain that the money lent will be safe and the proper interest received, no love of “law and order” (“Russia” is a welcome example of graveyard law and order for a European bourgeoisie scared by the proletariat) would compel the Rothschilds, Mendelsohns and others to open their purses. Whether the European financial magnates’ faith in the durability and solvency of the firm of Stolypin & Co. will be strengthened or weakened, depends to a great extent on the Duma. Even the bankers would not be in a position to loan thousands of millions if the majority of the European bourgeoisie had no faith in the Russian Government. And these bourgeois masses are being systematically deceived by venal bourgeois newspapers throughout the world, which have been bribed by the bankers and the Russian Government. The bribing of widely-circulating European newspapers in favour of the Russian loan is a “normal” phenomenon. Even Jaurès was offered 200,000 francs to withdraw from a campaign against the Russian loan; such is the high value our government places on the “public opinion” of even those strata of the French petty bourgeoisie that are capable of sympathising with socialism.
The petty-bourgeois masses of Europe have only the smallest possibility of ascertaining the true state of Russian finances, the real extent of the Russian Government’s solvency—it would be more accurate to say they have scant means of arriving at the truth. The entire European public will immediately learn of the discussion and decisions of the Duma, so that in this respect the voice of the Duma is of tremendous significance. Nobody else could do so much to deprive Stolypin & Co. of European financial support as the Duma can.
The duty of the “oppositional” Duma proceeds automatically from this. Only the Social-Democrats have done their duty. It is admitted by the semi-Cadet Tovarishch that the Social-Democrats, in Deputy Alexinsky’s budget speech, posed the question in a more principled manner than any body else. And, contrary to the opinion of the semi-Cadet Tovarishch, the Social-Democrats acted correctly by introducing a clear, direct, and well-defined declaration on the impermissibility of Social-Democrats approving such a budget as that of Russia. There could be added to the declaration an exposition of the socialist view of the budget of a bourgeois class state.
Only the extreme Left Narodniks, i.e., the Socialist-Revolutionaries, supported the Social-Democrats. The peasant democratic mass, the Trudoviks and Popular Socialists, wavered as usual between the liberal party and the proletariat; the petty property-owner is drawn to the bourgeoisie although the unbearable burden of feudal and fiscal “pressure” forces him to the side of the fighting working class.
As long as the Trudoviks support them, the liberals continue to rule the Duma. When the socialists point out the treacherous role of the Cadets on the budget question, they answer with poor jokes or phrases in the Novoye Vremya, Menshikov manner, such as Struve’s exclamation about the spectacular gesture of the Social-Democrats, etc.
But neither their jokes, their prevarication nor their pompous phrases will enable them to get away from the fact that both tasks for the democrats, indicated by us above, have been trampled in the mud by bourgeois liberalism.
As we have often had occasion to explain, the liberals’ betrayal of the revolution is not merely a private arrangement, not treachery on the part of individuals, but the policy of a class, a policy of self-interested reconciliation with reaction, and of support, direct and indirect, for that reaction. And this is precisely the policy that the Cadets are pursuing on the budget question. Instead of explaining the truth to the people, they are distracting the attention of the people, and are putting into the foreground their civil service “men in mufflers”, such as Kutler. Instead of explaining the truth to Europe, they are strengthening the position of the government; they are mouthing trivialities in stead of criticism and thereby refusing to confirm for the benefit of Europe the fact of Stolypin & Co.’s bankruptcy.
Formerly the Cadets conducted this cowardly, miserable philistine policy in secret. During the Second Duma election campaign in St. Petersburg, the Social-Democrats explained to public meetings that in the spring of 1906 the Cadets had assisted the government in borrowing 2,000 million francs to finance shootings, military courts and punitive expeditions. Clemenceau told the Cadets that he would raise a campaign against the loan if the Cadet Party would formally announce that the loan was unacceptable to the Russian people. The Cadets refused to do so, thus helping in the acquisition of funds for the counter-revolution. They say nothing about that matter. But in the Duma today the secrets are out. They are openly carrying on the same indescribably despicable business in the Duma.
It is high time to expose it, in all its details, from the Duma rostrum, and to tell the people the whole truth.
- Balalaikin— a character in M. Y. Saltykov-Shchedrin’s Modern Idyll; a loud-mouthed liberal, adventurer and liar.
- Menshikov—a reactionary journalist, collaborator of the Black-Hundred newspaper Novoye Vremya (New Times).