The Dying Autocracy and New Organs of Popular Rule
|Written||23 November 1905|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 66-70.
The article “The Dying Autocracy and New Organs of Popular Rule” was published as a separate leaflet by the Committee of the United Social-Democratic Organisations of Nikolayev on December 14 (27), 1905, and reprinted in Zabaikaisky Rabochy (The Trans-Baikal Worker), No. 2, the paper of the Chita Committee of the RSDLP, on December 18 (31), 1905.
The insurrection is gaining ground. The impotence, confusion and disintegration of the autocratic Witte Government are increasing. The organisation of the most diverse groups, sections and classes of the people, the organisation of the revolutionary and the counter-revolutionary forces, is growing in breadth and depth.
Such is the situation at present. It can be expressed in the words: organisation and mobilisation of the revolution. Land battles in Voronezh and Kiev follow on the heels of the naval battle in Sevastopol. In Kiev the armed uprising apparently goes a step further, a step in the direction of merging the revolutionary army with the revolutionary workers and students. That, at any rate, is the testimony of the report in fins about a meeting of 16,000 people in the Kiev Polytechnical Institute, held under the protection of a sap per battalion of insurgent soldiers.
It is quite natural that in the circumstances even the liberal bourgeoisie, which longs from the bottom of its heart for a deal with the autocracy, is beginning to lose patience, to lose faith in the “great” acrobat Witte, and to cast its eyes towards the left, in search of a force capable of carrying out the revolution which has become an absolute necessity.
In this respect, the stand taken by fins is highly instructive. This newspaper clearly sees that “events are beginning to pile up in just such an avalanche as preceded October 17”. And so, on the one hand, it appeals to the very Zemstvo leaders who have manifested no less confusion, impotence and helplessness than the autocratic government. It calls on them “not to delay” and to take “part in the impending events”, in order “to give the outcome of these events mild forms, least prejudicial and most favourable to the country”. On the other hand, this very same fins disagrees with Slovo, declaring that “no one believes that the present government could convoke a State Duma under the present circumstances”. “At present,” states fins, “it is necessary to think of forming a government that could convoke a Duma.”
Thus, under the pressure of the revolutionary proletariat, the liberal bourgeoisie takes another step to the left. Yesterday it was expressing a desire to bargain with Witte and adopted a conditional vote of confidence in him (at the Zemstvo Congress). Today confidence in Witte is waning, and capital is demanding a new government, fins proposes that all liberation parties set up a special national council of deputies, which would become a “powerful instrument of pressure on the government, if the latter shows itself still [!!] capable of functioning, and an organ of power of the people ready for use, to take over the duties of the government provisionally in the event of the latter’s utter incapacity and collapse”.
In plain and simple Russian, an organ of power of the people which temporarily assumes the duties of a government that has collapsed is called a provisional revolutionary government. Such a government is bound to be provisional, for its authority expires with the convocation of a constituent assembly representing the whole people. Such a government is bound to be revolutionary, for it replaces a government that has collapsed, and it does so with the, support of the revolution. The very replacement of one by the other cannot occur other than by revolutionary means. Such a government must become an “organ of power of the people”, carrying out everywhere the demands put forward by the people and replacing at once, immediately and everywhere all the old, autocratic and Black-Hundred “organs of power” by organs of power of the people, i.e., either by representatives of the provisional revolutionary government or by elected persons in all cases where elections are possible—on the basis, of course, of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot.
We are very glad that the liberal monarchist bourgeoisie has arrived at the idea of a provisional revolutionary government. We are glad not because we believe that the Liberals have sided with the revolution, not because we have suddenly begun to put faith in their sincerity, steadfastness and consistency. No, we are glad because it is an obvious and indubitable sign of the strength of the revolution. The revolution must have become a force since even the liberal monarchist bourgeoisie has come to realise the necessity for a provisional revolutionary government.
We are not forgetting, of course, that the liberals want to use such a government as a threat to the autocracy more than they desire its establishment, just as a customer threatens the shopkeeper that he will go to another shop. Lower your price, Mr. Witte, or we shall go into the provisional revolutionary government, “mildly” termed “general council of deputies” or “national council of deputies”! Only this desire to go on haggling can explain the seeming senselessness and absurdity of Rus declaring the Witte Government in capable of convening representatives of the people, and yet in the same breath granting that it is possible for this government to “show itself still capable of functioning”.
Oh, no, gentlemen of the liberal camp, these are not times in which such wiles can succeed or in which duplicity can remain unexposed! The people are fighting against the autocracy, which (on October 17) promised liberty only to make a mock of liberty, to outrage it. A provisional revolutionary government is the organ of a people fighting for liberty. The struggle for liberty against a government which is trampling liberty underfoot is (at a certain stage in the development of this struggle) an armed uprising, and this is what is now taking place in Russia all along the line. A provisional revolutionary government is the organ of insurrection, uniting all who have risen in revolt and exercising political leadership of the insurrection. Therefore anyone who talks of the possibility and necessity of a provisional revolutionary government, and yet permits of a deal with the old government which is to be superseded, is either confusing matters or committing an act of treachery. Indeed, just think, gentlemen who write in Rus: can there really be such simpletons among the supporters of the revolution who would voluntarily accept as members of a provisional revolutionary government individuals, or representatives of parties, who regard the old government as still “capable of functioning” and who continue to pay it visits by the back door, to bargain with it? Just consider: would the Russian Army have gained or lost by including the patriotic young men of Manchuria in its ranks? Most likely it would have lost, for the Manchurian patriots would have betrayed the Russians to the Japanese. The revolutionary people of Russia will likewise lose if the “patriots”, the monarchist-minded patriots of the money-bag (i.e., the liberal bourgeois), betray them to the Witte autocracy.
Let the liberal bourgeoisie regard the provisional revolutionary government as a mere threat to the autocracy. For the socialist proletariat, for the revolutionary peasantry, and for all those who are resolutely and irrevocably taking a stand with them in the struggle for liberty, the establishment of a provisional revolutionary government is a great and extremely important task, which becomes more pressing with every day. The October revolution, together with the military risings which followed it, has so weakened the autocracy that the organs of a new power —that of the people —have begun to spring up spontaneously, on the ground ploughed up by the political strike and fertilised with the blood of the champions of liberty. These organs are the revolutionary parties and militant organisations of the workers,peasants and other sections of the people who are waging a genuine revolutionary struggle. These organs are bringing about in practice the alliance between the socialist proletariat and the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie. We must now extend and consolidate this fighting alliance, give it shape and cement it, so that the organs of the new power are prepared for the coming repetition of October 17, so that all the fighters for liberty throughout Russia may then come forward with a common programme of immediate political changes—organised, self-disciplined, well aware of their aim, keeping out all traitors, all waverers, all windbags. For us representatives of the socialist proletariat the forth coming democratic revolution is only one of the steps to the great goal, the socialist revolution. Bearing this in mind, we shall never merge with the petty-bourgeois parties or groups, however sincere, revolutionary or strong they may be; we know for certain that on the road to socialism, the ways of the worker and of the petty proprietor will very often inevitably diverge. But it is in the interests of socialism that we shall now do our utmost for the democratic revolution to be accomplished as speedily, as fully and as resolutely as pos sible. With this end in view, we shall conclude, and are con cluding, a temporary fighting alliance with all the revolutionary-democratic forces to attain our common immediate political aim. It is to this end that, while strictly preserving our Party identity and independence, we enter the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies and other revolutionary associations. Long live the new organs of power of the people! Welcome to the single, supreme and victorious organ of popular rule!
And to the radical bourgeois we shall say in parting: Gentlemen,you chatter about organs of power of the people. It is only strength that makes power. In present-day society, only the armed people headed by the armed proletariat can constitute this strength. If sympathy with liberty were proved by words, we should probably have to call even the authors of the Manifesto of October 17 supporters of liberty. But if it has to be proved by deeds, then the only such deed at the present time is assistance in arming the workers, assistance in forming and building up a genuinely revolutionary army. So make your choice, gentlemen: will you go to Mr. Witte’s antechamber to beg for crumbs of liberty, to haggle over the curtailment of liberty, or to the “organs of power of the people”, to the provisional revolutionary government, to fight selflessly for complete liberty? Choose!
- Slovo (The Word)—a daily published in St. Petersburg from 1904 to 1909. A paper of the Right-wing Zemstvo, It was first (November 1905 to July 1906) a mouthpiece of the Octobrist Party and then became an organ of the constitutional-monarchist party of “peaceful renovators”, who were virtually indistinguishable from the Octobrists.