Who Is for Alliances With the Cadets?
|Written||24 June 1906|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 53-59.
It sometimes happens that experienced and cautious statesmen, who appreciate their responsibility for every important political step they take, send out in advance young and somewhat incautious tyros to reconnoitre, as it were. “No use to waste a clever lad,” they say to them selves, anticipating that the young men will blurt out some minor secret or other, which will serve as a feeler.
Comrade N. Rakhmetov, writing in Golos Truda, gives one the impression of just such a tyro fulfilling this intended mission. But that is exactly why, from a certain angle, Comrade Rakhmetov’s very trivial article—we poked fun at it yesterday –undoubtedly acquires political importance. If an influential organ of our Right-wing Social-Democrats like Golos Truda publishes, without a single editorial comment, an article calling upon the Social-Democrats to ally themselves with the Cadets it shows that our Party is suffering from some serious malady. No matter how much cautious, experienced and shrewd men may try to conceal its symptoms, the malady shows itself in spite of them. To keep silent about it would be a great crime.
The fundamental mistake of the opportunist Social-Democrats lies in their failure to understand what the decisive victory of the bourgeois revolution means. Our Russian opportunists who, like all opportunists, belittle the theory of revolutionary Marxism and the role of the proletariat as the vanguard, constantly labour under the illusion that the liberal bourgeoisie must inevitably be the “boss” in the bourgeois revolution. They totally fail to understand the historical role of, say, the Convention in the great French Revolution as the dictatorship of the lower strata of society, those of the proletariat and the petty-bourgeoisie. They totally fail to understand the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry as the only possible social bulwark of a fully victorious Russian bourgeois revolution.
In essence, opportunism means sacrificing the long-term and permanent interests of the proletariat for flashy and temporary interests. In the period of the bourgeois revolution, the opportunist Social-Democrat forgets the importance of the revolutionary wing of the bourgeois democrats and pays slavish homage to the successes of the non-revolutionary wing of these bourgeois democrats. He loses sight of the essential difference between the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie (Constitutional-Democratic Party, Party of Democratic Reforms, etc.) and the revolutionary, particularly, the peasant, bourgeois democrats. We have drawn the attention of our Right-wing comrades to this difference hundreds if not thousands of times. The Bolshevik draft resolution for the Congress very clearly stated that the liberal bourgeoisie is trying to make a deal with the old regime, is wavering between revolution and reaction, is afraid of the people, and afraid of the free and all-sided development of their activities; and that all this is not due to chance, but to its fundamental interests. We said that we must utilise the democratic phrases uttered by this bourgeoisie, and utilise the timid steps it takes; but we must not for a moment forget its “compromising” and treacherous strivings. The peasant democrats, on the other hand, owing to the objective conditions in which the mass of the peasants find themselves, are compelled to act in a revolutionary manner, in spite of the fact that they are not fully politically conscious. The fundamental interests of these bourgeois democrats are not at present impelling them to seek a deal, but are compelling them to fight determinedly against the old regime. To avoid sacrificing the fundamental interests of the proletariat in the bourgeois-democratic revolution, a sharp distinction must be drawn between the liberal, or “Cadet”, bourgeois democrats, and the peasant, or revolutionary, bourgeois democrats.
It is this that the opportunist Social-Democrats do not wish to understand, although events have brilliantly con firmed the correctness of this distinction and continue to do so. In the Duma, too, the peasant democrats become a distinct group by being compelled to draw closer to the revolution, and to strive to free themselves from the yoke of the Cadets. The Cadets and Octobrists versus the Trudoviks and Social-Democrats—such is the alignment that has already taken place both on the question of instituting elected local land committees, and on the question of the Cadets’ attempt to “curb” freedom of assembly.
The comrades of the Right wing of Social-Democracy are blind to these facts. Dazzled by the immediate situation, they are inclined to identify the party that at present predominates in the Duma, i.e., the Constitutional-Democratic Party, with the bourgeois democrats in general. N. Rakhmetov is particularly naïve in repeating this old mistake of the Mensheviks. While the “old hands” artfully get round the unpleasant deductions that must be drawn from wrong premises, the tyros chatter and blurt out the truth. If the Constitutional-Democrats represent the genuine bourgeois democrats in general (and not merely the worst strata of the bourgeoisie, and small upper strata at that) then, naturally, the necessary fighting alliance between the proletariat and the bourgeois democrats must be an alliance with the Cadets. The proletariat can, and must, be in the forefront of the fight for the victory of the bourgeois revolution, while strictly preserving its class independence. But without the bourgeois democrats it cannot carry through this revolution to the end. With whom, then, should it “march separately, but strike together”? With the liberal democrats, or with the peasant democrats?
With the liberals, with the Cadets, twitters Rakhmetov. Why hesitate? The Cadets are on top; they are more conspicuous; they are flashy and glib! With the Cadets, of course, with the Cadets! “It is much easier for the Cadets to twist and turn,” says Rakhmetov, “when they are surrounded by a solid wall of hostility than it would be if they were approached with an offer of a political coalition, · Much more can be achieved by the pressure of public opinion on the Cadets (by sending to the Duma resolutions, instructions, petitions and demands, organising protest meetings, negotiations between the Workers’ Group and the Cadets) than by senseless, and therefore useless, rowdyism, to put it strongly” (our italics).
Here then is a completely formulated deduction, for which Rakhmetov fully deserves a testimonial bearing the inscription: “From the grateful Bolsheviks”. Political alliances with the Cadets, negotiations between Social-Democrats and Cadets—what a clear and precise slogan! All we have to do now is to spread this Menshevik slogan as widely as possible throughout the workers’ party and put to the workers the question: Who is for alliances with the Cadets? Whoever knows anything of the proletariat will have no doubt about what the answer will be.
The same issue of Golos Truda contains what is substantially a correct warning by the Central Committee of the RSDLP against Social-Democrats merging with the Trudoviks. But Golos Truda has rendered the Central Committee of our Party a disservice by converting this warning into a cloak for advocacy of an alliance between the Social-Democrats and the Cadets! Nothing could be more calculated to discredit the Social-Democrats than this action of combining a—substantially correct, we repeat—warning against Social-Democrats merging with the revolutionary bourgeoisie, with the advocacy of an alliance between the Social-Democrats and the opportunist bourgeoisie!
And what moment have our Mensheviks chosen to advocate such an alliance? The moment when the alliance between the revolutionary and opportunist bourgeoisie, between the Trudoviks and the Cadets, is breaking down. A very appropriate moment, indeed, for our good Rakhmetov to choose for launching his crusade! The very moment that the Trudoviks— with the help of the Social-Democrats be it said—are beginning to break away from the Cadets, to throw off their yoke, to vote against them and to rally against the “alliance” between the Cadets and the Octobrists. And people like Rakhmetov have the presumption to talk pompously about revolutionising the Duma, when, as a matter of fact, they are helping the Cadets to degrade the Duma.
Remember this, gentlemen: alliances and negotiations with the Cadets are the worst way of exercising pressure on them. In practice, it will mean blunting the independent struggle of the Social-Democrats, and not Social-Democratic pressure on the Cadets. It is those who relentlessly expose every false step of the Cadets that are helping to revolutionise the Duma and are “exercising pressure” on the Cadets. Refusal to support these false steps exerts far more pressure on the Cadet Duma than any negotiations with the Cadets with a view to supporting them. The Workers’ Group refused to vote for the reply to the address from the throne: the Cadets had emasculated it. The Workers’ Group has refused to support the Cadets; thereby it has discredited them in the eyes of the people and has shifted morally the focus of public attention from the Cadets to the “Left” core of the Duma. By ruthlessly denouncing the half-heartedness of the Cadet Duma we are revolutionising the Duma and—what is more important—the people who believe in the Duma. We thereby, in effect, issue a call to throw off the Cadet yoke, to act more boldly, determinedly and consistently. We thereby also cause a cleavage among the Cadets and make their ranks waver under the joint assault of the Social-Democrats and the Trudoviks.
We are carrying out the policy of the proletariat as the vanguard fighter in the revolution and not as an appendage of the most timid and pitiful upper ranks of the liberal bourgeoisie.
- Lenin quotes the first line of the Russian soldiers’ song which mocked incapable Russian generals (General Read among them) during the Crimean War:
“No use to waste a clever ladYou just send along Réad...The author of the song was Lev Tolstoi, then an officer in the field.
- See pp. 50-52 of this volume.—Ed.
- Party of Democratic Reforms—P.D.R.—one of the political groupings of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie, formed in 1906 during the elections to the First State Duma. It occupied a position to the right of the Cadet Party, being in fact an insignificant offshoot of the latter.
- See present edition, Vol. 10, p. 158.—Ed.