The Present Political Situation (1906)
|Written||27 May 1906|
Published in Vperyod, No. 8, May 28, 1906. Published according to the newspaper text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 485-489.
The political situation is clearing up at a rate that is truly gratifying. It is good to be alive at a time when the masses begin to stir with political life. All the main social groups in Russia today have already, in one way or another, taken the path of open and mass political action. Open action relentlessly reveals the basic differences of the interests involved. The parties are seen in their true colours. Events, with an iron band, sort out the adherents of the various classes and make them decide who is on one side and who is on the other.
In the Duma, these fundamental differences of class interests which are bringing about political realignment show themselves much more dimly and obscurely than they do among the masses of the people. In the Duma there is for this purpose the Constitutional-Democratic Party, whose particular function is, by fair means or foul, to rub off the sharp edges, blunt acute antagonisms, subdue the flashes of struggle that break out here and there. But among the “masses” the ferment is rising. Again the proletarians, the peasants, the soldiers, the railwaymen are stirring in all their mass strength. The strike movement is growing and assuming new forms (“striking by turn”, one industry after the other—we shall deal with this form of strike another time). The direct struggle of the peasants for land is be coming more intense. Reports of the awakening of the down trodden soldiers and sailors are coming in more often. The railwaymen are beginning to “recover”. Something fresh and new is moving, rumbling, fermenting and heaving every where. New shoots are forcing their way up out of the heaps of ruins.
And although the Cadets are trying to close the shutters of the Taurida Palace as tightly as they possibly can, they cannot keep out the fresh breeze of life th&t is blowing. Even there the process of class differentiation and political clarification is going on. The Cadets still dominate the Trudoviks. They are still celebrating their recent victory in blocking the Trudovik motion for the immediate enact ment of a law abolishing capital punishment, and in compelling them to withdraw their motion for the immediate establishment of land committees, local, freely elected committees for settling the land question.
But the very fact that the Cadets are compelled to fight more and more frequently to maintain their supremacy in the Duma clearly shows that there is some profound difference between them and the Trudoviks. The more frequent and sharp these collisions become, the more definitely the masses of the people see the difference between the liberal landlords, factory owners, lawyers and professors— and the peasants. The peasants are striving heart and soul for freedom for the people, and that is why they cannot live in harmony with the party of “people’s freedom”. The peasants are striving to obtain land and freedom, and this striving of theirs alone is enough to burst at the seams the vaunted love for the people of the vaunted party of “people’s freedom”.
The Cadets are still defeating the Trudoviks, but their victories either result in real trouble for their party, or expose their true “nature” with a thoroughness that gladdens the heart of the proletariat.
The first incident occurred over the Cadets’ Draconian Freedom of the Press Bill. They wriggle and twist to justify themselves, but their miserable efforts only worsen the tangle in which they are caught. They have admitted that they made a “mistake” in publishing a “rough draft”, but to this day they have been unable publicly to rectify the mistake or produce a finished draft.
The second incident was in connection with the local land committees. The open political struggle immediately united all the “Lefts”, i.e., the Trudoviks and the Social-Democratic proletariat, against the Cadets. The Mensheviks agreed with the Bolsheviks in their appraisal of the Cadets’ true intentions: to betray the revolution, extinguish the revolution with the aid of “bureaucratic” schemes, by uniting the bureaucrats and the liberals against the peasants. The issue became clear: should the bureaucrats and the liberal landlords submit to the tens of millions of peasants, or should these tens of millions submit to a handful of bureaucrats and liberals? The whole working class, all the Social-Democratic representatives of the proletariat, to a man took the side of the peasants against the bureaucrats and the liberals. The Cadets discredited themselves splendidly. We compelled them to admit in public that they do not want to give the peasants complete freedom and all the land, and that they seek the aid of the bureaucrats against the peasants. One side said: the peasants must certainly predominate in the local land committees; the peasants number tens of millions while the bureaucrats and the land lords number hundreds of thousands. The other side replied:
the landlords and the peasants must be equally represented, while the bureaucrats will participate and “supervise”.
The proletariat and the politically-conscious peasants on one side and the bureaucrats and the Cadets on the other—this is the alignment that experience is dictating in the present, immediately impending, struggle.
All praise to you, Cadet statesmen! All praise to you, writers for Rech and Duma! You are helping us revolutionary Social-Democrats immensely to explain unvarnished political reality to the people! You are helping us both with your theories and with your deeds.
In your theories, you have to go further and further. You state the issue very well today: it is all a matter “of a fundamental difference of opinion” (Rech, No. 84). “Some say the Duma is only a ’stage in the revolution’, while others say the Duma is a means of consolidating the constitutional system on a broad democratic basis.”
Excellent, admirable, gentlemen who write for Rech! Quite true: we have before us two fundamentally different opinions. Either the Duma is a stage in the revolution, or it is an instrument for securing an agreement between the bureaucrats and the Cadets against the proletariat and the revolutionary peasantry. What, you don’t like this para phrase? You protest? You are joking! Have you not completely shown your hand on the question of the local land committees? Is there anybody so foolish as not to under stand that “a broad democratic basis” is a screen for as equal a representation of peasants and liberals as possible, with the Goremykins or other bureaucrats participating and having the right to supervise?
And whoever remains deaf to all the Cadets’ phrases, speeches, declarations and theories will be enlightened tomorrow by their deeds. Nor is that a long way off. We can only say to the party of “people’s freedom”: “That thou doest, do quickly!”
As for what it is doing, this is evident from what follows.
Our government’s change of policy is being zealously discussed in the newspapers. The French bankers are not lending any more money: they refuse to pay the next instalments. Le Temps, the most influential French capitalist newspaper, is strongly advising the Russian Government to make concessions to the Cadets. Witte and Durnovo have gone abroad to try to talk over the French bankers. But it doesn’t come off. The bankers won’t believe them. Trepov is busily discussing the question of the composition of a new Ministry. Kokovtsov, or some other bureaucrat, is contemplated as Prime Minister. Certain Right Cadets are contemplated as Ministers.
We shall probably be told that this is all newspaper gossip. Perhaps it is, but it may well contain a particle of truth. There is no smoke without fire. Novoye Vremya has long been known as a weathercock. Its ability to keep its nose to the wind and to obey orders from above has been proved for decades. And this newspaper has been obviously changing front during the past few days. Instead of a continuous torrent of abuse of the Cadets, we now read in its columns the most fervent appeals to the government to make concessions to the Cadets and to form a Cadet Ministry. But perhaps the Cadets are indignant about the lies Novoye Vremya is telling? Not in the least. Rech has already quoted “Novoye Vremya” twice on this question (in Nos. 82 and 84) without a word of protest, with obvious satisfaction, merely regretting now and again the echoes of the past that one still finds in that same Novoye Vremya.
And so, it is possible that we are on the eve of a Cadet Ministry headed by someone like Kokovtsov. The evening papers today even report that the Goremykin Ministry re signed yesterday. Again we shall say to the party of “people’s freedom”: “That thou doest, do quickly!” Nothing would serve to clear up the present political situation as fully and finally as the appointment of a Cadet Ministry by the supreme authority. This will help to dispel the last short-sighted hopes pinned on the Cadets; then all the “Lefts” will finally unite for real political action; then all the arguments about supporting the Duma and a Duma Ministry will cease; and the political alignment that is now taking shape will become an actual fact, and the basis of a new “stage”.
Incidentally, this “stage” will come even if a Cadet Ministry is not appointed. We are “well shod on all four hoofs”, gentlemen of the Cadet Party!
- At the fourteenth sitting of the Duma, on May 24 (June 6), 1906, the Trudoviks tabled a motion, signed by 35 deputies, for the immediate establishment of local land committees to be elected by universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot. The land committees were to carry out work preparatory to an agrarian reform and participate in the discussion of the draft laws on the agrarian question submitted to the Duma. The issue of local committees and redemption payments was “the very pivot of the agrarian question”, as Lenin phrased it, for it was an issue of who was to effect the reform, whether the peasants or the landlords.
The Cadets sharply criticised the Trudovik motion, both in the Duma and in the press. On the very next day after the statement of the thirty-five was made public Rech, the Cadet central organ, attacked the Trudovik draft, saying that the contemplated commit tees might shift the solution of the problem to the “left”.
The Bolsheviks supported the idea of setting up local committees, which they regarded as one form of organising the masses for a further revolutionary struggle. Lenin wrote: “Workers’ governments in the towns, peasant committees in the villages (which at a certain moment will be transformed into bodies elected by universal, etc., suffrage)—such is the only possible form of organisation of the victorious revolution, i.e., the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. It is not surprising that the liberals hate these forms of organisation of the classes that are fighting for freedom!” (See present edition, Vol. 13, “The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution 1905–1907”.)
- The resolution of the Unity Congress of the RSDLP says: “instrument of the revolution”.—Lenin