The Slogans and Organisation of Social-Democratic Work Inside and Outside the Duma
|Written||8 December 1911|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 17, pages 331-341
The question put by the Social-Democratic group in the Third Duma concerning the dastardly frame-up staged by the secret police that led to the criminal proceedings being instituted against the Social-Democrat members of the Second Duma, apparently marks a certain turn in our entire Party activity, as well as in the position of democracy in general and in the mood of the working masses.
It is probably the first time that such a resolute protest, revolutionary in tone and content, against the “masters of June Third” has been heard from the rostrum of the Third Duma, a protest supported by the entire opposition, including the extremely moderate, liberal-monarchist, Vekhi variety of “His Majesty’s Opposition”, i.e., the Cadet Party, and Including even the Progressists. It is probably the first time since the period of gloom set in (i.e., since 1908), that the country sees, feels, and is tangibly aware that in connection with the revolutionary protest voiced by the deputies of the revolutionary proletariat in the reactionary Duma, the masses of workers are stirring, that there is a rising spirit of unrest in the working-class districts of the capital, that workers are holding meetings (meetings again!) at which revolutionary speeches are delivered by Social-Democrats (the meetings at the Putilov Works, the Cable Works, and other plants), and that there is talk and rumour of a political mass strike (see report from St. Petersburg in the Octobrist Golos Moskvy of November 19).
To be sure, revolutionary speeches were made by Social-Democrat deputies in the Third Duma on more than one occasion in the paste too. On more than one occasion our comrades of the Social-Democratic group in the Third Duma did their duty splendidly and from the platform of the reactionary and servile Purishkevich “parliament” they spoke plainly, clearly and sharply of the bankruptcy of the monarchy, of a republic, of a second revolution. These services rendered by the Social-Democrat members of the Third Duma must be emphasised all the more strongly, the more often we hear the contemptible opportunist talk of the sham Social-Democrats of Golos Sotsial-Demokrata or Dyelo Zhizni who frown upon such speeches.
But never before has there been such a combination of political symptoms indicating a turn—the, entire opposition backing the Social-Democrats; the liberal-monarchist, “loyal”, “responsible”, and cowardly Rech stating that the situation is fraught with conflict; the masses showing unrest in connection with the question in the Duma; and the censored press reporting the existence of “alarming sentiments” in the rural districts. Following as it does upon the “Muromtsev” and “Tolstoi” demonstrations of last year, the strikes in 1910 and 4911, and last year’s students’ “affair”, the present instance undoubtedly serves to confirm us in our conviction that the first period of the Russian counter-revolution—the period of absolute stagnation, of dead calm, hangings and suicides, of the orgy of reaction and the orgy of renegacy of every brand, particularly the liberal brand—that this period has come to an end. The second period in the history of the counter-revolution has set in: the state of utter dejection and often of “savage” fright is waning; among the broadest and most varied sections of the population there is a noticeably growing political consciousness—or, if not consciousness exactly, at least a feeling that “things cannot go on as before”, and that a “change” is required, is necessary, is inevitable; and we see the beginning of an inclination, half instinctive, often still undefined, to lend support to protests and struggle.
It would, naturally, be imprudent to exaggerate the significance of these symptoms and to imagine that the revival is already under way. That is not yet so. The features that characterise the counter-revolution at present are not the same as those distinguishing its first period; but the counter revolution still reigns supreme and imagines itself to be invincible. To quote the December 1908 resolution of the RSDLP, the “protracted task of training, educating, and organising” the proletariat is still, as before, on the order of the day. However, the fact that a turn has set in compels us to pay particular attention to the attitude of the Social-Democratic Party to other parties, and to the immediate tasks of the working-class movement.
“His Majesty’s Opposition”, including the Cadets and the Progressists, appeared to recognise for a moment the leading role of the Social-Democrats and, following the lead of the workers’ deputies, walked out of the Duma of landowners and Octobrists, the Duma founded by the Black-Hundred and pogrom-making monarchy of Nicholas Romanov; they walked out and stayed away during the base trickery of the majority who were afraid that the story of the frame-up would be made public.
What does this mean? Have the Cadets ceased to be a counter-revolutionary party or have they never been one, as is asserted by the opportunist Social-Democrats? Ought we to make it our task to “support” the Cadets and to think of some slogan calling for a “general national opposition”?
The enemies of revolutionary Social-Democracy have from time immemorial, it may be said, resorted to the method of reducing its views to an absurdity and have, for the convenience of their polemics, drawn a caricature of Marxism. Thus, in the second half of the nineties of the last century, when Social-Democracy was just springing up in Russia as a mass movement, the Narodniks drew a caricature of Marxism which they labelled “strike-ism”. And, such was the irony of history that there were Marxists whom that caricature fitted. They were the Economists. It was possible to save the honour and good name of Social-Democracy only by a ruthless struggle against Economism. And after the Revolution of 1905, when Bolshevism, as the adaptation of revolutionary Marxism to the particular conditions of the epoch, scored a great victory in the working-class movement, a victory which now even its enemies concede, our adversaries drew a caricature of Bolshevism, which they labelled “boycottism”, “combatism”, etc. And, again, such was the irony of history that there were Bolsheviks whom that caricature fitted. They were the Vperyod group.
These lessons of history should serve as a warning against attempts to distort the views of revolutionary Social-Democrats concerning the attitude towards the Constitutional-Democrats (see, for instance, Vperyod, No. 2). The Cadets are unquestionably a counter-revolutionary party. Only absolutely ignorant or unscrupulous persons can deny this; and it is the bounden duty of Social-Democrats to make this fact known far and wide, including the rostrum of the Duma. But the Cadets are a party of counter-revolutionary liberals, and their liberal nature, as has been emphasised in the resolution on non-proletarian parties adopted at the London Congress of the RSDLP (in 1907), makes it our duty to “take advantage” of the peculiar situation and the particular conflicts or cases of friction arising from this situation, to take advantage, for instance, of their sham democracy to advocate true, consistent, and selfless democracy.
Since counter-revolutionary liberalism has sprung up in the country, the forces of democracy in general, and of proletarian democracy in particular, must do everything to separate themselves from it; not for a moment must they forget the dividing line between it and them. But it does not in the least follow from this that it is permissible to confuse counter-revolutionary liberalism with, say, counter revolutionary feudalism, or that it is permissible to ignore the conflicts between them, to hold aloof from these conflicts or brush them aside. Counter-revolutionary liberalism, for the very reason that it is counter-revolutionary, will never be able to assume the role of leader in a victorious revolution; but, for the very reason that it is liberalism, it will inevitably keep coming into “conflict” with the Crown, with feudalism, with non-liberal bourgeoisie, and by its behaviour it will sometimes indirectly reflect the “Left”, democratic sentiments of the country, or the be ginning of a revival, etc.
Let us recall the history of France. At the time of the revolution, bourgeois liberalism had already shown its counter-revolutionary nature—this subject is dealt with, for instance, in Cunow’s fine book on revolutionary news paper literature in France, Yet, not only after the great bourgeois revolution, but even after the revolution of 1848, when the counter-revolutionary nature of the liberals had brought matters to such a pass that workers were being shot down by republicans—in 1868–70, the last years of the Second Empire—these liberals by their opposition ex pressed the change of sentiment in the country and the beginning of the democratic, revolutionary, republican revival.
If the Cadets are now playing at “eyes left”, as the Octobrists taunt them, that is one of the symptoms and one of the results of the country moving “leftward”; it shows that revolutionary democracy is stirring in the womb of its mother, preparing to come into God’s world again. The womb of Russia under the rule of the Purishkeviches and Romanovs is such that it must give birth to revolutionary democracy!
What is the practical conclusion to be drawn from this? The conclusion is that we must watch the growth of this new revolutionary democracy with the greatest attention. Just because it is new, because it is coming into the world after 1905 and after the counter-revolution, and not before it, it is sure to grow in a new way; and in order to be able properly to approach this “new”, to be able to influence it and help it grow successfully, we must not confine our selves to the old methods, but must search for new methods as well—we must mingle with the crowds, feel the pulse of real life, and sometimes make our way not only into the thick of the crowd, but also into the liberal salon.
Mr. Burtsev’s sheet L’Avenir, for instance, is very reminiscent of a liberal salon. There the stupid, liberal, Octobrist-Cadet slogan calling for “a revision of the Statutes of June 3” is defended in a liberal manner; there they prattle eagerly about stool-pigeons, police, agents provocateurs, Burtsev, bombs. Nevertheless, when Mr. Martov was in a hurry to get into that salon, he might have been accused only of tactless haste, but not of a fundamental falsehood, if ... if he had not behaved there like a liberal. We may justify, and sometimes even praise, a Social-Democrat who makes his appearance in a liberal salon as long as he be haves like a Social-Democrat, But in the liberal salon Mr. Martov came out with the liberal balderdash about “solidarity in the struggle for the very freedom of elections and election propaganda”, which is supposed to be maintained “for the period of the elections”!! (L’Avenir, No. 5).
A new democracy is growing up—under new conditions, and in a new way. We must learn to approach it properly—that is beyond doubt. We must not approach it for the purpose of lisping like liberals, but in order to uphold and advocate the slogans of true democracy. Social-Democrats must advocate three slogans to the new democracy, slogans which are alone worthy of our great cause and which alone correspond to the real conditions for the attainment of freedom in Russia. These slogans are: a republic; the eight-hour day; and the confiscation of all landed estates.
This is the one correct nation-wide programme of struggle for a free Russia. Anyone who doubts this programme is not yet a democrat. Anyone who denies this programme while calling himself a democrat, has understood all too well how necessary it is for him to hoodwink the people in order to achieve his anti-democratic (i.e., counter-revolutionary) aims.
Why is the struggle for the eight-hour working day a natural condition for the attainment of freedom in Russia? Because experience has shown that freedom cannot be achieved without a selfless struggle on the part of the proletariat, and such a struggle is inseparably bound up with the struggle to improve the workers’ conditions. The eight-hour day is an example of such improvements and is the banner of struggle for them.
Why is the struggle for the confiscation of all landed estates a natural condition for the attainment of freedom in Russia? Because, without radical measures to help the millions of peasants who have been reduced by the Purishkeviches, Romanovs, and Markovs to unheard of ruin, suffering, and death from starvation, all talk of democracy and of “people’s freedom” is absurd and utterly hypocritical. And unless the landed estates are confiscated for the benefit of the peasants, there can be no question of any serious measures to help the muzhik, there can be no question of any serious determination to put an end to muzhik Russia, i.e., to feudal Russia, and to build up a Russia of free tillers of the soil, a democratic bourgeois Russia.
Why is the struggle for a republic a natural condition for the attainment of freedom in Russia? Because experience, the great and unforgettable experience of one of the greatest decades in the history of Russia—the first decade of the twentieth century—has shown clearly, conclusively, and incontestably that our monarchy is incompatible with even the most elementary guarantees of political freedom. The result of Russia’s historical development and centuries of tsardom is that at the beginning of the twentieth century there is no other monarchy in Russia, nor can there be any other, than a Black-Hundred and pogrom-making monarchy. With social conditions and class relations what they are, all the Russian monarchy can do is to organise gangs of murderers to shoot our liberal and democratic deputies from behind, or set fire to buildings in which meetings are held by democrats. The only answer the Russian monarchy can give to the demonstrations of the people demanding freedom is to let loose gangs of men who seize hold of Jewish children by their legs and smash their heads against stones, who rape Jewish and Georgian women and rip open the bellies of old men.
The liberal innocents prattle about the example of a constitutional monarchy like that of England. But if in a civilised country like England, a country which has never known anything like the Mongolian yoke or the tyranny of a bureaucracy, or a military clique riding roughshod over it, if it was necessary in that country to chop off the head of one crowned robber in order to impress upon the kings that they must be “constitutional” monarchs, in a country like Russia we should have to chop off the heads of at least a hundred Romanovs in order to wean their successors from the habit of organising Black-Hundred murders and anti-Jewish pogroms.
If Social-Democracy has learned anything at all from the first Russian revolution, it must insist that in all our speeches and leaflets we discard the slogan “Down with the autocracy”, which has proved to be vague and worthless, and that we advance only the slogan: “Down with the tsarist monarchy, long live a republic”.
And let no one try to tell us that the slogan calling for a republic does not apply to the present stage of the political development of the workers and peasants. About ten or twelve years ago there were not only some Narodniks who would not dare even to think of the slogan, “Down with the autocracy”, but even certain Social-Democrats, the so-called Economists, opposed that slogan as being inopportune. Yet by 1903–04 the slogan, “Down with the autocracy”, had become a “household word”! There cannot be even a shadow of doubt that systematic and persistent republican propaganda is now bound to find very fertile soil in Russia; for there can be no doubt that the broadest masses, particularly the peasant masses, are thinking grim, profound thoughts about the meaning of the dispersal of two Dumas and the connection between the tsarist government and the landowner-ridden Third Duma, between the tsarist government and the ruin of the countryside by the Markovs. Nobody today can tell how quickly the seed of republican propaganda will sprout—but that is beside the point; the main thing is that the sowing should be done properly, really democratically.
since we are discussing the question of the slogans for the forthcoming elections to the Fourth Duma and those for all our work outside the Duma, we cannot refrain from mentioning a very important and very incorrect speech made by the Social-Democrat Kuznetsov in the Third Duma. On October 17, 1911, the sixth anniversary of the first victory of the Russian revolution, Kuznetsov spoke in the debate on the workers’ Insurance Bill. It must be said in fairness to him, that, in general, he spoke very well. He vigorously championed the interests of the proletariat and made no bones about telling the truth directly, not only to the majority of the reactionary Duma, but to the Cadets as well. But, while fully granting this service rendered by Kuznetsov, we must likewise make no bones about pointing out the mistake he committed.
“I think,” said Kuznetsov, “that the workers who have followed attentively the general debate on these questions, as well as the debate on individual clauses of the Bill under discussion, will come to the conclusion that their immediate slogan at present must be: ‘Down with the June Third Duma, long live universal suffrage!’ Why? Because, I say, the interests of the working class can be properly taken care of only if and when that class will, through universal suffrage, send into the legislative body a sufficient number of its deputies; they alone will be able to provide a proper solution to the problem of insurance for the working class.”
It was here that Kuznetsov came a cropper in a way he probably never suspected, but which we foretold long ago—he came a cropper because the mistakes of the liquidators coincide with those of the otzovists.
While launching, from the rostrum of the Duma, a slogan inspired by the liquidationist magazines Nasha Zarya and Dyelo Zhizni, Kuznetsov did not notice that the first (and most essential) part of this slogan (“Down with the Third Duma”) fully reproduces the slogan which the otzovists openly advanced three years ago, and which since then only Vperyod, that is to say, the cowardly otzovists, have defended stealthily and covertly.
Three years ago Proletary, No. 38, of November 1 (14), 1908, wrote the following in regard to this slogan advanced at the time by the otzovists:
“Under what conditions could a slogan like ‘down with the Duma’ acquire meaning? Let us assume that we are faced with a liberal, reform-seeking, compromising Duma in a period of the sharpest revolutionary crisis, which had developed to the point of direct civil war. It is quite possible that at such a moment our slogan might be ‘down with the Duma’, i.e., down with peaceable negotiations with the tsar, down with the deceptive institution of ‘peace’, let’s call for a direct attack. Now let us assume, on the contrary, that we are faced with an arch-reactionary Duma, elected under an obsolete electoral law, and the absence of any acutely revolutionary crisis in the country. In that case the slogan ‘down with the Duma’ might become the slogan of a struggle for electoral reform. We see nothing of either of these contingencies at the present time.”
The supplement to Proletary, No. 44 (of April 4 , 1909) printed the resolution of the St. Petersburg otzovists which demanded outright that “Widespread agitation should be started among the masses in favour of the slogan ‘Down with the Third Duma’”. In the same issue Proletary came out against this resolution and pointed out: “This slogan, which for a time appealed to some anti-otzovist workers, is wrong. It is either a Cadet slogan, calling for franchise reform under the autocracy [it so happens that, although this was written at the beginning of 1909, it is a perfectly fitting argument against the way Kuznetsov presents the question at the end of 1911!], or a repetition of words learned by rote during the period when the liberal Dumas were a screen for counter-revolutionary tsarism designed to prevent the people from seeing clearly who their real enemy was.”
Hence the nature of Kuznetsov’s mistake is clear. His generalised slogan is the Cadet slogan for an electoral reform, which is absolutely meaningless if all the other charms of the Romanov monarchy—the Council of State, the omnipotence of bureaucrats, the Black-Hundred pogrom organisations of the tsar’s clique, etc., are left intact. What Kuznetsov should have said, assuming that the question is approached in the same way as he approached it, and assuming that nothing is changed in the general tone of his speech, is approximately the following:
“The workers’ Insurance Bill provides the very example which again proves to the workers that neither the immediate interests of their class nor the rights and needs of the people as a whole can be defended without such changes as the introduction of universal suffrage, full freedom of association, of the press, etc. Is it not obvious, however, that it is useless to expect the realisation of such changes so long as the present political system of Russia remains intact, so long as any decisions of any Duma can be over ruled, and so long as even a single non-elective govern mental institution is left in the state?”
We know perfectly well that Social-Democrat deputies succeeded—and that is to their credit—in making even much plainer and clearer republican statements from the rostrum of the Third Duma. The members of the Duma have an opportunity to conduct republican propaganda legally from the floor of the Duma, and it is their duty to avail themselves of this opportunity. Our example of how Kuznetsov’s speech could be corrected is merely intended to illustrate how he could have avoided the mistake, while preserving the general tone of the speech, and pointing to and emphasising the tremendous importance of such unquestionably indispensable changes as the introduction of universal suffrage, freedom of association, etc.
Wherever a Social-Democrat makes a political speech, it is his duty always to speak of a republic. But one must know how to speak of a republic. One cannot speak about it in the same terms when addressing a meeting in a factory and one in a Cossack village, when speaking at a meeting of students or in a peasant cottage, when it is dealt with from the rostrum of the Third Duma or in the columns of a publication issued abroad. The art of any propagandist and agitator consists in his ability to find the best means of influencing any given audience, by presenting a definite truth, in such a way as to make it most convincing, most easy to digest, most graphic, and most strongly impressive.
Never for a moment must we forget the main thing: a new democracy is awakening to a new life and a new struggle in Russia. It is the duty of class-conscious workers, the vanguard of the Russian revolution and leaders of the popular masses in the struggle for freedom, to explain the tasks of consistent democracy: a republic, the eight-hour day, and the confiscation of all landed estates.
- The question put by the Social-Democratic group was discussed on November 15 (28), 1911 and it was again discussed on three occasions behind closed doors; the question was then handed over to a commission by which it was rejected.
- This quotation is from the resolution of the Fifth (All-Russia) Conference of the RSDLP in 1908 “The Present Moment and the Tasks of the Party”.
- Proletary then went on to defend the slogan, “Down with the autocracy”. This slogan, as we have already pointed out, must now give way to the slogan: “Down with the tsarist monarchy, long live a republic”. (See present edition, Vol. 15, “The Assessment of the Present Situation”.—Ed.) —Lenin
- See present edition, Vol. 15, “A Caricature of Bolshevism”.—Ed.