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Political Struggle and Political Chicanery

V. I. Lenin

At present it seems that the home policy of the Russian Government can least of all he accused of insufficient resoluteness and clarity. The fight against the enemy at home is in full swing. Hardly ever has there been a time when fortresses, prisons, police stations, and even private homes and apartments temporarily converted into lock-ups have been so crammed with persons under arrest. There is no room for all those who have been seized; it is impossible to send all the exiles to Siberia by the usual "means of transportation," without equipping extraordinary "expeditions"; there are neither the forces nor the means for instituting a uniform regime for all prisoners, and the wholly arbitrary behaviour of the distraught and tyrannical local authorities especially rouses the indignation of the prisoners and drives them to protest, struggle, and hunger-strikes. The higher authorities, however, while leaving it to the small fry to deal with the internal enemies already in custody, are zealously continuing their labours to "improve" and reorganise the police with a view to striking further against the very roots and branches.

It is war pure and simple, and it is not only be coming apparent to ever greater masses of the Russian population, but is actually being more or less directly felt by them. The vanguard of police and gendarmerie flying squads are slowly but surely followed by the heavy artillery of the law. Take the laws of the preceding month, and the first things to strike you are the new ukases which destroy the last vestiges of Finland's liberties, and in addition, perhaps, the extensive law on mutual aid societies for the nobility. The first of these measures completely undermines the independence of the Finnish courts and Senate, making it possible for the Governor-General to know every thing, to control everything, i. e., actually converting Finland into one of those numerous Russian provinces which enjoy no rights and are abased. From now on, remarks Finlandskaya Gazeta, the police-controlled government newspaper, there is hope for the "harmonious" activity of all local institutions.... I am at a loss to say whether this is a malicious sneer at an unarmed foe who has been dealt a most foul and deliberate blow, or unctuous twaddle in the spirit of "Judas" Golovlyov.[2]

The second of the laws mentioned above is the latest offspring of the same Select Committee for Affairs of the Nobility, which has already blessed the fatherland with the looting of Siberian lands ("the imposition of landed proprietorship in Siberia").[3] At a time of severe commercial and industrial crisis and complete impoverishment in the countryside, when millions of workers and peasants are prey to hunger, malnutrition, and distress, it is of course impossible even to imagine a better way of using the people's money than for hand-outs to the unfortunate landed gentry. First, the government will grant to each mutual aid society for the nobility a certain lump sum ("at the discretion of His Majesty the Emperor"!), and, secondly, over a period of ten years it will grant them as much again as members of the local nobility will themselves contribute. The societies will assist those who have difficulty in paying interest on loans. The gentlemen of the nobility need have no compunction about accepting loans when they have been shown such an easy way of getting money for payments from the pockets of the people.

And as if deliberately to sum up this policy of persecution, violence, and plunder, to generalise and consecrate it, there came the tsar's addresses to the nobility, Zemstvoists, peasants, and workers (in Kursk and St. Peters burg). The tsar thanked the nobility for the service it had rendered him, service "dictated by conscience rather than by fear," and promised to display ceaseless concern in the promotion of landed proprietorship, "which constitutes the age-old pillar of law and order and of the moral strength of Russia." To the Zemstvoists the tsar said nothing at all either about a pillar, or about the moral strength of Russia, or about service dictated by conscience rather than by fear. He told them briefly and plainly that their "mission is to organise local efforts in the sphere of economic requirements," and that only if they bore this in mind, only if they discharged this mission successfully, could they be assured of his graciousness. This was an absolutely definite answer to the constitutional yearnings of the Zemstvoists, a direct warning (or, to be more exact, challenge) to them, a threat to withhold his "graciousness" in the event of the slightest transgression on their part beyond the bounds of "local efforts in the sphere of economic requirements."

Further, to the peasants the tsar openly expressed censure for the "disturbances" and the "plunder of estates," describing as "merited punishment" the brutal beating and torture of the muzhiks who had risen in hunger and desperation,. and recalling the words of Alexander III, who had en joined them to "obey the Marshals of the Nobility." Lastly, to the workers the tsar spoke neither more nor less than "about enemies," his enemies, who should also be the enemies of the workers.

And so, the noblemen are the faithful servants and the age-old pillar of law and order. The Zemstvoists (or Zemstvo noblemen?) get a warning. The peasants too are censured and are commanded to obey the noblemen. The workers are faced squarely with the question of enemies. Instructive speeches. It is instructive to compare them, and it would be most desirable to acquaint as many people as possible both with the exact text and the real meaning of these speeches, through the medium of proclamations, leaflets, and talks in study circles and at meetings. Simple explanatory notes to the text of these speeches would serve as splendid material for agitation among the most unenlightened part of the most backward sections of the working class, the small traders.and manufacturers, and the peasantry. And not only the "ignorant," but also many an enlightened and educated Russian citizen would also benefit by careful pondering over the tsar's speeches—especially from among the liberals in general and among the Zemstvoists in particular. It is not often that one hears from the lips of royalty such an explicit avowal, confirmation, and declaration of war at home: war of the various classes of the population, war against domestic enemies. And an open avowal of war is an excellent remedy against all and sundry forms of political chicanery, i.e., attempts to gloss over, evade and hush up the war, or attempts to constrict and dwarf its nature.

The political chicanery to which we refer is exhibited both by the government and the peaceful opposition, and occasionally even by the revolutionaries (although it is true that in the case of the latter it assumes a special form which does not resemble the former). On the part of the government it is deliberate enticement, bribery, and corruption, in short, a system that has come to be known as "Zubatovism." Promises of more or less extensive reforms, actual readiness to carry out the tiniest fraction of what has been promised, and the demand to refrain from political struggle in return for this—such is the essence of Zubatovism. Now even some of the Zemstvoists already see that the parleys between Mr. Plehve, Minister of the Interior, and Mr. D. N. Shipov (Chairman of the Moscow Zemstvo Board) constitute the beginning of "Zemstvo Zubatovism." Plehve promises to deal "more favourably" with the Zemstvo (cf. Osvobozhdeniye, No. 7), promises to convene a conference of chair men of Zemstvo Boards early next year for "settling all questions concerning the functioning of Zemstvo institutions," demanding in return that the Zemstvoists "say nothing about representation in the higher government bodies." It would appear that the matter is as clear as can be: the promise is most indefinite, while the demand is such that, if it is complied with, the Zemstvoists' yearnings cannot be realised. Against this political deceit, trickery, and corruption there is only one remedy: merciless exposure of the tricksters, and a resolute political (i. e., in Russian conditions, revolutionary) struggle against the police autocracy. Judging by Osvobozhdeniye, our Zemstvoists, however, are not yet equal to this task. They reply to political chicanery in kind, and their mouth piece betrays utter instability. In No. 7 of Osvobozhdeniye this instability is particularly glaring owing to the fact that opinions on the question at issue are voiced not only by the editors but also by several contributors with whom the editors more or less disagree. In the editorial, the view that Plehve's promises are a trap and an expression of Zubatovism is given only as the opinion of a few Zemstvoists, and right next to this we are given the opinion of other Zemstvoists who "are inclined to follow the minister's instructions" (!!). The editors are far from the idea of launching a campaign against Zemstvo Zubatovism. They have cautioned the Zemstvoists against "concessions" to the government (in Nos. 5 and 6), but they do not come out with a resolute condemnation of Mr. Shipov and Co., who have heeded the advice of the old police fox and deleted from the agenda of the spring congress of the Zemstvo Point 4 (which dealt with the necessity of supplementing the Select Committee on the Needs of the Agricultural Industry with elected Zemstvo representatives). The conclusion drawn by the editors in their leading article is not that the Zemstvo is degraded because part of the Zemstvoists have fallen for the police's vile bait, but because the very fact of negotiations between the government and the Zemstvo "proves that the Zemstvo is now already a 'representative body'" (!!) and that the "congress" promised by Mr. Plehve (it seems to me Mr. Plehve spoke only about a "conference"?) "is desirable in any case," since it "cannot but clear up the relations between the Zemstvo and the government." The editors are "firmly convinced that the Zemstvoists will behave at the congress as befits them— as representatives of the people, and not as assistants to the ministers in the economic sphere." If one judges solely by this leading article, one must, on the contrary, be firmly convinced that the Zemstvoists will again act as "assist ants" of the police authorities, as Messrs. Shipov and Co. have done (until another Zemstvo trend thrusts them aside, or refashions them).

A welcome relief from the political chicanery in this leading article is offered by further articles from contributors: Mr. Anton Staritsky's and even more so the article of the Zemstvo Councillor Mr. T. The former calls the action of Mr. Shipov and Co. a "false step," advises the Zemstvoists "not to be hasty in thinking that some sort of congress arranged by Mr. Plehve will confirm them in their birthright," advises them not to fall for the bait, and refrain from political chicanery. The editors comment: "On the whole we agree with the author of this article," evidently in the opinion that, in particular, political chicanery should not be condemned so one-sidedly.[1]

The second contributor, however, openly rebels against the entire stand of Osvobozhdeniye, attacking its incompleteness and irresolution, condemning such false language as, for instance, references to "the people's anarchy," and declaring that "it is impossible to rest content with half-measures, that it is necessary to decide to go on to the very end," that "it is necessary to have done with the servile half-measures of the legal opposition..." "stopping at no sacrifice," that "unless we become revolutionaries, we [Zemstvoists] will be unable to contribute anything substantial to the cause of the political emancipation of Russia." From the bottom of our hearts we welcome these honest and firm statements by the Zemstvo councillor and earnestly advise everyone who takes an interest in the problem under examination to make a study of them. He fully confirms the appraisal of the Osvobozhdeniye programme given by us in Iskra. More than that: his article shows not only the correctness of our point of view, but also the expediency of our sharp exposure of the half-heartedness of liberalism. It appears that among the Zemstvoists themselves there are people who are repelled by shilly-shallying of any sort and whom we must make special efforts to support by ruthlessly criticising such shilly-shallying from our standpoint.

The editor of Osvobozhdeniye, of course, does not agree with Zemstvo Councillor T. and—respectfully but firmly— declares: "We see many things in a different light...." To say the least! And what then are the objections of the editors? They boil down to two main points: firstly, Mr. Struve prefers peaceful paths "on principle," in contrast, as he believes, to some revolutionaries; secondly, he accuses the latter of insufficient tolerance. Let us examine these objections.

In an article headed "Apropos of a Reproach" Mr. Struve (the article is over his signature.—Ed.) quotes my article in No. 2-3 of Zarya ("The Persecutors of the Zemstvo and the Hannibals of Liberalism"). What displeased him particularly, of course, were the words: "if, for once at least, the people taught the government a good lesson" it would be of "enormous historical significance." [See present edition, Vol. 5.—Ed.] You see, Mr. Struve decidedly and categorically disagrees that violent revolution is preferable to peaceful reform. The most resolute Russian revolutionaries, he says, preferred the peaceful path on principle, and no doctrines whatever can stifle this glorious tradition.

It is difficult to conceive of anything more fallacious and laboured than this argument. Does Mr. Struve really fail to understand that a slave who has risen in revolt is morally entitled to speak about the preferability of peace with the slaveowner, whereas a slave who renounces rebellion sinks into shameful hypocrisy when he repeats the very same words? "The elements of revolution in Russia are, unfortunately or fortunately, not yet ripe," says Mr. Struve, and this word "fortunately" shows him up completely.

As for the glorious traditions of revolutionary thought, Mr. Struve would be well advised to keep silent on this score. We need only refer to the famous closing words of the Communist Manifesto.[4] We need only recollect that thirty years after the publication of the Manifesto, when the German workers were deprived of a portion of the rights which the Russian people have never had, Engels retorted to Dühring in the following words:

"To Herr Dühring force is the absolute evil; the first act of force is to him the original sin; his whole exposition is a jeremiad on the contamination of all subsequent his tory consummated by this original sin; a jeremiad on the shameful perversion of all natural and social laws by this diabolical power, force. That force, however, plays also another role in history, a revolutionary role; that, in the words of Marx, it is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one, that it is the instrument with the aid of which social movement forces its way through and shatters the dead, fossilised political forms—of this there is not a word in Herr Dühring. It is only with sighs and groans that he admits the possibility that force will perhaps be necessary for the overthrow of the economic system of exploitation—unfortunately, because all use of force, for sooth, demoralises the person who uses it. And this in spite of the immense moral and spiritual impetus which has been given by every victorious revolution! And this in Germany, where a violent collision—which indeed may be forced on the people—would at least have the advantage of wiping out the servility which has permeated the national consciousness as a result of the humiliation of the Thirty Years' War. And this parsons' mode of thought—lifeless, insipid and impotent—claims the right to impose itself on the most revolutionary party that history has known!"[5]

Let us proceed to the second point, dealing with tolerance. What we need is "mutual understanding," "complete frankness," and "great tolerance" in relations between the various trends, we are unctuously instructed by Mr. Struve (like many Socialist-Revolutionaries and exponents of public opinion). Well, and what should we do, we ask him, if our complete frankness will seem to you to be lack of tolerance? If we, for example, find that Osvobozhdeniye has a right hand and a left hand, a pernicious and treacherous left hand, does not complete frankness make it incumbent upon us to wage ruthless battle against this left hand? Does not such frankness oblige us to fight against the adventurism (and political chicanery) of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, when they display it both in questions of the theory of socialism and in the attitude they have towards the class struggle in all their tactics? Is there even the slightest trace of political sense in the demand to water down this struggle and to render it innocuous for the sake of that which the very people this struggle is directed against are pleased to term tolerance?

It is high time to dispense with your tawdry show of naïveté, gentlemen! High time to understand the simple truth that it is not political chicanery, not what the late Stepnyak[6] once called self-restriction and self-concealment, not the conventional lie of diplomatic mutual recognition that ensure a genuine (and not merely an alleged) joint struggle against the common enemy, but actual participation in the struggle, actual unity in struggle. When the struggle of the German Social-Democrats against the military-police and feudal-clerical reaction really became one with the struggle of any genuine party which relied for support upon a definite class of the people (for instance, the liberal bourgeoisie), then joint action was instituted without any phrase-mongering about mutual recognition. One does not talk about recognising a fact that is obvious to everyone and felt by everyone (we, for instance, do not ask anyone to recognise the working-class movement!). Only people who confuse politics with political chicanery can think that the "tone" of polemics can interfere with a genuine political alliance. But so long as we have evasive talk instead of genuine participation in our struggle, so long as we have only adventurist tactics instead of a genuine advance towards our struggle on the part of some other social stratum or class, no spate of threatening or miserable words will bring "mutual recognition" one iota nearer.


[1] In No. 8 of Osvobozhdeniye, which we have just received, we already have a more resolute condemnation of political chicanery and Mr. Shipov's false step. Good! Perhaps the incident with this respected personage will induce the editors to look for the roots of "political chicanery" in their fundamental views about the relations between liberalism and the revolutionary trends? —Lenin

[2] Lenin refers to Porphiry (nicknamed "Judas") Golovlyov, a sanctimonious, hypocritical landlord serf-owner described in M. Y. Saltykov-Shchedrin's The Golovlyov Family.

[3] Lenin is referring to the Law of June 8(21), 1901, which turned government lands in Siberia over to private persons. The Law gave exceptional advantages to the landed nobility. Lenin made a detailed analysis and appraisal of this Law in his article, "Serf-Owners at Work" (see present edition, Vol. 5).

[4] Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, pp. 64-65.

[5] Lenin is quoting from Engels' Anti-Dühring (see Frederick Engels, Anti-Dühring, Moscow, 1959, pp. 253-54).

[6] Stepnyak-Kravchinsky—the Russian Narodnaya Volya writer.

Published: Isrka, No. 26, October 15, 1902.
Published according to the Iskra text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 6, pages 253-261.

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