The Tactics of the Proletariat and the Tasks of the Moment
|Written||30 May 1906|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 490-493.
The report we published the other day of the resignation of the Goremykin Ministry is officially denied. But the newspapers which have some access to “reliable” sources of information do not believe this denial. The Novoye Vremya campaign in favour of a Cadet Ministry is now more cautious, but is going on. Novoye Vremya has discovered a Japanese diplomat who believes that “the Cadet Party is pursuing state aims”. It even assures its readers, in an article by Mr. Rozanov, that “the Cadets will not relinquish civilisation even for the revolution”, and that “this is all that can be expected at the moment”. Rech believes that “the resignation of the Goremykin Cabinet can be considered a foregone conclusion, and the only question is, who is to be its successor”. In short, the question of a Cadet Ministry is still on the order of the day.
The Cadets realise this, and perhaps something more. They have come to a dead stop and are “standing rigid” like setters. They are clutching with both hands at even the shadow of support from the left that would help them to execute their plans. It is significant that Rech, the chief organ of the Cadet Party, devoted the leading article in its last issue to the question of the Social-Democrats’ attitude towards the idea of a Cadet Ministry. We publish elsewhere the full text of that article as a most instructive sign of the times.
The authors of the article sum up their main idea as follows: to create “common ground on which the liberation movement could take its stand with complete unanimity, without distinction of shades”. This, in fact, is the principal aim of the Cadets’ entire policy. Moreover, this, in fact, is the principal aim of all the liberal-bourgeois policy in the Russian revolution in general. To eliminate the “different shades” in the liberation movement means eliminating the difference in the democratic demands of the bourgeoisie, the peasantry and the proletariat. It means recognising with “complete unanimity” the liberal bourgeoisie as the medium of expression and champion of the aspirations of the whole liberation movement. It means converting the proletariat into a blind tool of the liberal bourgeoisie. But since everybody knows that the supreme political ideal of the liberal bourgeoisie—dictated by its most pro found class interests—is a deal with the old authority, we may formulate our last thesis differently. We can say that the bourgeois Rech wants to convert the proletariat into a blind accessory to the deal that the liberals want to make with the old authority. But the main target against which this deal will be directed will be the proletariat, and the next, of course, the revolutionary peasantry.
This is what a Cadet Ministry really means. The recent conflict in the State Duma over the question of instituting local land committees threw a glaring light on Cadet pol icy. The committees should have been the local authority, while the Ministry is to be the central authority; but in substance the Cadets’ policy remains unchanged, always and everywhere. They are opposed to the election of local committees by universal suffrage: they are in favour of “equal representation of the landlords and the peasants, under the supervision of the old authorities”. They have been compelled to admit this, against their own will, be cause for a long time they concealed the truth, tried to befog the issue and asserted that, “in general”, they were whole heartedly in favour both of local land committees and of universal suffrage. Similarly, the Cadets are opposed to the convocation of a constituent assembly: they are in favour of a Cadet Ministry to be appointed by the supreme authority. Such a Ministry, as the instrument of central authority, will be quite on a par with local committees established on the vaunted principle of equal representation, etc.
The tactics the proletariat must adopt in face of this Cadet policy are clear. The proletariat must ruthlessly expose the true meaning of this policy, tolerating no ambiguities, no attempts to obscure the political consciousness of the workers and peasants. The proletariat must fully use all the vacillations in the policy of the “powers that be” and of the would-be “sharers of power” to enlarge and strengthen its own class organisation, and to strengthen its contacts with the revolutionary peasantry as the only class that is capable of carrying the liberation movement beyond the Cadet “darn”, beyond a Cadet deal with the old authorities.
But should not the proletariat support the demand of the liberal bourgeoisie that the supreme authority should appoint a Cadet Ministry? Is it not the duty of the proletariat to do so since the appointment of a Cadet Ministry would facilitate the struggle for freedom and for socialism?
No, such a step would be a gross mistake, and betrayal of the interests of the proletariat. It would mean sacrificing the fundamental interests of the proletariat in the revolution for the sake of a momentary success. It would mean chasing a shadow and advising the proletariat to “lay down its arms”, without even the slightest real guarantee that its struggle will really be facilitated. It would be the worst kind of opportunism.
The appointment of a Cadet Ministry by the supreme authority will not shake the foundations of the old authorities in the least. It will not necessarily change the real alignment of force.s in favour of the truly revolutionary classes. Such a “reform” will not eliminate the struggle between the people and the old authorities in the least. There have been cases in the history of revolutions where such liberal Ministries appointed by the old authorities (for example, in Germany in 1848) served only as a screen for autocracy, and did more to stamp out the revolution than many a bureaucratic Ministry.
The Russian proletariat has no reason to fear a Cadet Ministry, which, at all events, will help the people to realise the true nature of the Cadets; but it must under no circumstances support the appointment of such a Ministry, for, in essence, this is a most ambiguous, sinister and treacherous measure.
Since the Duma was not swept away, it was to the proletariat’s advantage that the Cadets obtained a majority in the elections. They will “exhaust” themselves much sooner than they would have done had they been in the minority. But the proletariat refused to render the Cadets any sup port during the elections, and the Unity Congress of the RSDLP endorsed this decision by prohibiting all blocs (agreements, alliances) with other parties. A Cadet Ministry will be to the proletariat’s advantage in the sense that, if one were formed, the Cadets would the sooner “spend” themselves, become “played out”, “winded”, and reveal themselves in their true colours. But the proletariat will never support a deal between the bourgeoisie and Trepov for the purpose of carving up the people’s freedom.
The only real way of “supporting” the liberation movement and really developing it is to stimulate the growth of the political and industrial organisations of the proletariat and to strengthen its ties with the revolutionary peasantry. This alone will really sap the strength of the old authority and prepare for its downfall. The bargaining of the Cadets is a dubious game. It would be both useless to support it, with a view to achieving some truly lasting gains for the revolution, and harmful to do so, because of the effect it would have on the development of the political consciousness, solidarity and organisation of the revolutionary classes.