The Working-Class Party's Tasks and the Peasantry
|Written||28 December 1906|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 396-400.
The article “The Working-Class Party’s Tasks and the Peasantry” was written for the Samara legal Bolshevik newspaper Samarskaya Luka (Samara River-bend). Lenin sent the manuscript of the article from St. Petersburg to the address of the editorial board of the newspaper in Samara, but it was intercepted by the gendarmerie. The manuscript was only found in 1929 among the archives of the Samara provincial gendarmerie.
The Volga Region is one of the big centres of the peasant movement. The particularly urgent task confronting the workers’ party there is: to carry out the independent class policy of the proletariat, while constantly explaining to the peasant masses that they can win land and liberty only by breaking with their customary leaders from among the Liberal landlord-Cadets, only by joining with the revolutionary proletariat.
It is to this task, too, that the election campaign of the workers’ party should be wholly subordinated. For this very reason, blocs with the Cadets—which in general are impermissible because of the whole position in principle of the Social-Democratic Party as the party leading the class struggle of the proletariat—are particularly harmful in the Volga Region. To show this more clearly, let us take the example of a peasant deputy to the First Duma from the Volga Region. This deputy is Mr. I. Zhilkin, a Trudovik elected from Saratov Gubernia.
Trudovik Zhilkin is now writing in the St. Petersburg Cadet newspaper Tovarishch and defending blocs with the Cadets. But see how he defends such blocs. In Tovarishch of December 17 he describes the elections to the First Duma in Saratov Gubernia. The peasants elected their own people, instinctively—with the true instinct of the working and exploited people—distrusting the liberal landlord and bourgeois lawyer. In the gubernia, when all the electors had gathered for the election of the Duma deputies, the peasants comprised about two-fifths of the total.
(Let us recall that the total number of electors in Saratov Gubernia was 150. Of these, 64 were from the peasants, 51 from the landowners and 35 from the townsfolk. Mr. Zhilkin gives the number as 152 electors, perhaps adding the workers’ curia.)
The peasant electors in the gubernia came up against “prominent” Cadets like Mr. N. N. Lvov, “attached to the Central Committee of the Cadet Party”. Among the electors from the uyezd towns some people proved to be more to the left than the Cadets. And very rapidly, almost of itself, a Left bloc was formed, an “Alliance of the Working People”, the germ of the future Trudovik Group in the Duma.
Haggling with the Cadets for seats in the Duma began. The Cadets demanded two-thirds of the seats for the Constitutional-Democrats, the “working people” demanded the same for themselves. No agreement was reached. The Cadets did not believe in the strength and solidarity of the alliance of the working people. At the last election meeting, however, it turned out that the candidates of the alliance obtained from 78 to 89 votes out of the total of 152. “The chief candidates of the Cadets obtained from 50 to 67.”
Then the Cadets surrendered. They agreed to their party being in the minority in the Duma. “The committee of the alliance of the working people agreed to secure the election of two candidates under the Cadet flag: N. N. Lvov and S. A. Kotlyarevsky. “And it was typical,” writes Mr. Zhilkin, “that these candidates who had only obtained 59 and 67 votes at the election meeting, received 111 votes at the poll.”
Yes, this is very, very typical. Only unfortunately Trudovik Zhilkin does not understand the significance of the facts he reports.
Just think: the left Alliance of the Working People, disposing of 78-89 votes out of 152, i.e., the majority, secured the election of N. N. Lvov to the Duma. And so Mr. Zhilkin, the Trudovik, defends blocs with the Cadets.
Do you know, workers and peasants, what sort of a man N. N. Lvov is? He is a landlord, one of the founders of the “Osvobozhdeniye League”, i.e., one of the founders of the Cadet Party. For seven years he served as a Marshal of the Nobility. In the Duma he belonged to the most Right wing Cadets. In other words, he not only opposed the Social- Democratic worker deputies and the Trudoviks, but even found that the whole Cadet Party was too far to the left! He found that the Cadet Draconian laws on assembly and the press were too liberal and the ruinous compensation payment which the Cadet landlords proposed for the peasants was a reform too generous to the peasants. The Cadets wanted to sell land to the peasants at a just valuation, this just valuation to be arrived at by a body with an equal number of representatives of the peasants and the landlords and with the addition of representatives of t e government. One peasant, one landlord, one police official—was this not a truly beautiful example of Cadet justice! But to the landlord Mr. Lvov it seemed altogether too liberal. Apparently he would have liked more police officials on the local land committees.
Consequently Mr. Lvov delivered speeches in the Duma against the peasants’ demand for land. During the period of the Duma Mr. Lvov hastened to make his way by the back stairs to the powers that be in order to haggle over ministerial seats for the liberal landlords in return for “curbing” the Trudoviks and Social-Democrats in the Duma. That’s the sort of man he is, this liberal landlord Lvov, elected to the Duma by the Trudoviks. And after the dissolution of the Duma landlord Lvov had talks with Stolypin about entering the Stolypin Cabinet!!
In order to talk more freely with Stolypin, Lvov left the Cadets and formed the Party of Peaceful Plunder. The Cadets are now entering into a bloc with this party. The newspaper Tovarishch, for which Mr. Zhilkin writes, calls it a progressive and not a Black-Hundred party!
What is important for us is that Lvov was a Cadet when he entered the Duma. What is important is that the Cadet landlord betrayed the peasants in the most vile fashion, fighting against their demands in the Duma and even after the dissolution of the Duma haggling for a ministerial seat with people who were responsible for shooting and flogging masses of peasants.
That is the sort of Cadet landlords the Trudoviks elected to the Duma!
Let us suppose that at that time Mr. Zhilkin and the other Trudoviks did not know what kind of an animal this Lvov was. Let us suppose that Mr. Zhilkin & Co. made a mistake. One cannot be condemned for making a mistake.
Very well. But is it possible that at the present time Mr. Zhilkin does not know how the Cadet landlords like Lvov have gone over from “people’s freedom” to the Stolypin military-court Cabinet? Mr. Zhilkin does know this; nevertheless he advises the Trudoviks and Social-Democratic workers to enter into a bloc with the party of the liberal landlords and bourgeois lawyers, with the Party of the Cadets.
Lvov is an example of the Cadet traitor, an example of the liberal landlord party.
Zhilkin is an example of the unintelligent and vacillating Trudovik who trails in the wake of the “liberal” landlords, incapable of opening the eyes of the peasants, incapable of gaining a victory even when in the majority, incapable of rallying the peasants to independent struggle.
Let all the class-conscious workers, all the Social-Democrats of the Volga Region, use the example of Lvov and Zhilkin to teach the people.
Workers! Do you want to help elect to the Duma Cadets like the landlord Lvov, who one day delivers orations on people’s freedom and the next day goes over to the side of Stolypin?
If you do not want this, reject all blocs with the Cadets, with this party of “liberal” landlords. Call upon the peasants to support the Social-Democratic Labour Party and not the Party of the Constitutional-Democrats.
Peasants! Do you want once more to elect to the Duma “liberal” landlords like the Cadet Lvov, who prior to the Duma promised you a land flowing with milk and honey, but when in the Duma proposed a just valuation of the landlords’ land by officials appointed by the landlords’ government? Do you want to entrust defence of peasant demands to the liberal landlords and bourgeois lawyers?
If you do not want this, vote for the Social-Democrats, i.e., for the workers’ party. Nowhere in the world has the Social-Democratic Labour Party betrayed the interests of the ruined, impoverished, toiling and exploited peasantry. Throughout the world the liberal bourgeoisie has deceived the peasants fighting for land and liberty just as the Cadets like Lvov are deceiving them in this country.
There is not and cannot be any other remedy against the wobbling of the Trudoviks than a strong, class-conscious workers’ party that never departs from the class standpoint. The peasants can win land and liberty only by marching hand-in-hand with the class-conscious workers.
December 28, 1906