The Political Situation and the Tasks of the Working Class
|Written||24 December 1906|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 389-395.
After the dissolution of the Duma the government was able to hold the indignation of the country in check only by means of military terror. The special and emergency security regulations, endless arrests, military courts, punitive expeditions—all these taken together cannot be called any thing but military terror.
The government used this military suppression of the movement for freedom as a test of its own strength. If we are strong enough—we shall not convene the Duma at all, and at once satisfy the desires of the Union of the Russian People and similar “truly Russian” Black-Hundred parties. If we are not strong enough—we shall convene it once more, we shall try to modify the electoral law, try to ensure a Black-Hundred Duma, or to tame a Cadet Duma. That is how the government reasoned.
The military strength of ruthless repression has only sufficed, so far at least, to enable the government, by means of Senate interpretations and in violation of the law, to deprive thousands and tens of thousands of workers, poor peasants and railwaymen of the right to vote. The government’s financial difficulties have increased enormously. It has failed, so far, to obtain a loan. Inevitable bankruptcy is staring it in the face. There is not a single party in the country it can rely on, and it is oscillating between the hooligan gangs (the true Russians) and the Octobrists. It has been unable to reach full agreement even with the Octobrists.
Such are the conditions in which the election campaign for the Second Duma is being inaugurated. The ordinary man in the street is cowed. He has been intimidated by the military courts. He is under the spell of the government’s boast that the Duma will be docile. He yields to this mood and is ready to forgive the Cadets all their mistakes, to throw overboard all that the First Duma taught him and vote for the Cadets if only the Black Hundreds arc kept out.
That the ordinary man in the street should behave in this way is natural. He is never guided by a definite world-outlook, by principles of integral party tactics. He always swims with the stream, blindly obeying the mood of the moment. He cannot reason in any other way than by contrasting the most moderate of all the opposition parties to the Black Hundreds. He is incapable of thinking for himself over the experience of the First Duma.
But what is natural for the ordinary man in the street is unpardonable for a party man, and altogether reprehensible for a Social-Democrat. Listen to the arguments of those Social-Democrats who are calling on the socialist workers to vote for the Cadets (it makes no difference whether it is only for Cadets in constituencies where the Social-Democrats have refrained from putting up their own candidates, or for Cadets and Social-Democrats where there is a joint list). Instead of arguments you will hear only one refrain, a cry of terror and despair: Don’t let the Black Hundreds in! Vote for the Cadets! Draw up joint lists with the Cadets!
A Social-Democrat, a member of the worker’s party, can not stoop to such philistine behaviour. He must clearly understand what actual social forces are engaged in the struggle, the real significance of the Duma in general, and of the Cadet Party, which predominated in the First Duma, in particular. Whoever argues about the present policy of the proletariat without thinking over all these questions will never arrive at anything like correct conclusions,
What is the issue in the present struggle in Russia? It is a fight for freedom, i.e., a fight for state power to be in the hands of the representatives of the people and not in the hands of the old government. It is a fight for land for the peasants. The government is opposing these strivings with all its might, fighting to retain its power, its land (for the richest landlords are among the most aristocratic and most highly placed persons in the state). Opposed to the government are the workers and the mass of the poor peasantry, and also, of course, the urban poor, about whom there is no need to speak separately since they have no special interests that differ from the fundamental interests of the proletariat and the peasantry.
What is the attitude of the upper classes, the landlords and the bourgeoisie, to this struggle? At first—until October 17, a great number of them were liberals, i.e., they sympathised with the cause of liberty, and in one way or another even helped the workers in their struggle. The bourgeoisie was dissatisfied with the autocratic system of government and demanded a voice in state affairs. The bourgeoisie called itself democratic, i.e., claimed to stand for the people’s freedom, in order to obtain the people’s backing for its aspirations. But after October 17 the bourgeoisie was satisfied with what it had received, i.e., participation of the landlords and capitalists in state affairs and the promises of freedom made by the old regime, which remained intact. The bourgeoisie was frightened by the independent struggle of the proletariat and the peasantry, and proclaimed: “We have had enough of revolution!”
Before October 17 there was one all-inclusive liberal bourgeois party of the Zemstvo people, who assembled at their famous semi-legal congresses and published abroad the journal Osvobozhdeniye. After October 17 the participants in these Zemstvo congresses split: the capitalist business men and the bigger landlords, or landlords who conducted their estates on feudal lines, joined the Octobrist Party, i.e., openly went over to the government. The other section, mainly lawyers, professors and other bourgeois intellectuals, formed the Cadet Party (the Constitutional-Democrats). This party also turned against the revolution; it, too, was frightened by the workers’ struggle; it, too, proclaimed: “Enough!” But it wanted, as it wants now, to stop the struggle by more subtle means, by small concessions to the people, land for the peasants with compensation, etc. The Cadet Party promised that if its members were elected to the Duma it would give the people liberty and the peasants land. The Social-Democrats realised that the Cadets were deceiving the people and therefore boycotted the Duma. But the ignorant peasants and the cowed ordinary citizens nevertheless elected the Cadets to the Duma. Instead of fighting for liberty when they got into the Puma, the Cadets began to appeal to the people to keep calm, while they themselves strove to obtain appointments as the tsar’s Ministers. The Duma was dissolved because speeches were delivered there that displeased the powers that be, because the Social-Democrats and the bolder deputies addressed the people from the Duma tribune, calling on them to fight.
Even the blindest or the most ignorant people must now realise what the Cadet Party really is. It is not a party of the champions of the people; it is a party of bourgeois petitioners, middlemen and hucksters. The workers and intelligent peasants will be able to achieve their aims only when the masses cease to believe in the Cadet Party, when the masses realise the necessity of an independent struggle. Therefore, to vote for the Cadets, or advocate voting for the Cadets, means misleading the masses, undermining their solidarity and hindering them in preparing for the struggle.
The class-conscious workers are now confronted by quite a different task. They must combat philistine confusion and lack of principles with consistent, steadfast, co-ordinated socialist propaganda during the election campaign.
The immediate task of the class-conscious workers is to explain to the proletarian masses and to all the progressive peasants the real nature of the struggle, the actual position of the various classes in this struggle.
The workers have progressed more than any other class in the course of our revolution. They are now coming over en masse to the Social-Democrats. More intense and more extensive work must, of course, be carried on among them; but here the road has been well explored. Work among the peasants is much more important and much more difficult. The peasants are a class of small proprietors. That class is far less favourably situated in regard to the struggle for liberty and the struggle for socialism than the workers. The peasants are not united by working in big enterprises; on the contrary, they are disunited by their small individual farming. Unlike the workers, the peasants do not see before them an open, obvious, single enemy in the person of the capitalist. The peasants themselves are to a certain extent masters and proprietors. That is why they always trail be hind the bourgeoisie and try to imitate it. Their ambition is to develop and consolidate their small property; and not to fight in a common struggle with the working class against the capitalist class.
That is why the mass of the poor peasants have always and in every country proved to be less persistent in their struggle for liberty and for socialism than the workers. That is why, in this country, the peasant deputies in the Duma, the Trudoviks, have so far not succeeded, in spite of all the lessons of Cadet treachery, in casting off the influence of the liberal bourgeoisie, its views, its prejudices and its political methods—methods which are supposed to be cunning and subtle, to consist of fine “manoeuvres”, where as in fact they are stupid, futile and disgraceful for every genuine fighter.
Class-conscious workers! Take advantage of the election campaign to open the eyes of the people! Do not yield to the persuasions of these well-meaning but feeble and irresolute people who are urging you to put up joint lists with the Cadets, and to obscure the minds of the masses by means of joint slogans with the Cadets. Do not believe the stock cries and warnings about the Black-Hundred danger. The real and fundamental danger that confronts the Russian revolution is the immaturity of the peasant masses, their lack of staunchness in the struggle, their failure to understand the shallowness and treachery of bourgeois liberalism. Fight against that danger, tell the whole truth openly to the mass of the people. In that way you will draw them away from the Cadet windbags and gain their support for the Social-Democrats. Only in this way will you be able to combat the real Black-Hundred danger. No Senate interpretations, no executions, no arrests can prevent the people from carrying on such work, the work of raising the civic and class consciousness of the masses to a higher level, of organising them to fight for their own and not liberal-bourgeois aims in the struggle.