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The Army and the People

V. I. Lenin

All the newspapers continue to teem with reports about the movement among the armed forces. It is difficult to calculate now in how many regiments, or military units, there have been unrest and revolts during the two months of the Duma's "work". In regard to military affairs, too, the notorious peaceful parliamentary activity which naïve, not always naive, by the way, bourgeois politicians have invented, has resulted in methods of struggle and forms of the movement that are by no means peaceful, and by no means parliamentary.

In publishing facts and reports about the movement among the armed forces, our liberal-bourgeois press usually uses this material only for the purpose of intimidating the government. The Cadet newspapers usually argue as follows: the conflagration is spreading. Look out, beware, gentlemen, members of the Cabinet. Yield to us before it is too late. And the Cabinet Ministers retaliate (through the medium of Novoye Vremya and other servile newspapers) by trying to intimidate the Cadets. They say: Look, gentlemen, the conflagration is spreading. Come to an understanding with us before it is too late. Both the Cadets and the government regard the movement among the armed forces as proof of the necessity of taking immediate measures to extinguish the revolution. Their short-sighted outlook, which is largely prompted by their selfish interests, prevents them from seeing that this movement is a most important index of the real character of our revolution, of its real aims. Both the Cadets and the government are each pursuing their own selfish interests in the question of the army. The pogrom-mongers need the army as an instrument for pogroms. The liberal bourgeoisie needs it to protect the bourgeois monarchy from the "excessive" encroachments and demands of the peasants, and particularly of the workers. The vulgar, hypocritical and false doctrine that "the army must be kept out of politics" is particularly convenient for concealing the true designs of the bourgeoisie in this field.

But look at the character of the unrest in the armed forces, at the demands the soldiers are making. Try to regard the soldiers who risk being shot for "insubordination" as human beings who have their own, independent interests, as part of the people, as men who are expressing the urgent needs of certain classes in our society. You will see that these soldiers—who stand closest to the politically least developed peasantry, who are drilled, downtrodden and browbeaten by the officers—that these "dumb brutes" are going immeasurably further in their demands than the Cadet programmes!

The Cadets, and the Cadet Duma, like to claim that they are voicing the demands of the people. Many simpletons believe this. But look at the facts. Look at the demands the broad masses of the people are actually making, at the struggle they are actually waging, and you will see that the Cadets and the Cadet Duma are curtailing and distorting the demands of the people.

Look at the facts. The men of the Preobrazhensky Regiment put forward the demand: support the Trudovik Group in the struggle for land and freedom. Please note: not support the Duma, but support the Trudovik Group; the Group which the Cadets accused of "grossly insulting" the State Duma by introducing the Land Bill of the 33 deputies, which proposed to abolish the private ownership of land![1] Obviously, the soldiers are going much further than the Cadets. These "dumb brutes" want more than the enlightened bourgeoisie....

An infantry regiment in St. Petersburg demanded the following: "... we soldiers must be allowed to elect our deputies to the State Duma to voice our soldiers' needs." The soldiers do not want to keep out of politics. The soldiers do not agree with the Cadets. The soldiers are advancing a demand that obviously amounts to the abolition of the caste army, of the army that is isolated from the people, and its replacement by an army of free and equal citizens. Now this is exactly the same thing as the abolition of the standing army and the arming of the people.

The soldiers in the Warsaw Area are demanding a constituent assembly. They are demanding freedom of assembly and of association for soldiers "without the consent or presence of officers". They are demanding that "military service be performed in the soldiers' native districts", the right to wear civilian dress when off duty, and the right to elect soldiers' representatives to supervise the soldiers' mess and to act as judges to try offences committed by soldiers.

Does this in any way resemble the Cadets' conception of army reform? Or does it come very close to the institution of a national and fully democratic militia?

The soldiers are voicing the real demands of the people, demands that are common to the overwhelming majority of the people, far better than those gentlemen, the enlightened bourgeoisie. The character and the main features of the movement among the armed forces express far more accurately the essence of the main and fundamental forms of the struggle for emancipation under present conditions than the tactics of the Cadets. The movement of the workers and peasants confirms this even more strongly. Our duty is not to attempt to squeeze this movement into the narrow limits of paltry Cadet politics, not to degrade it by adapting it to fit paltry Cadet slogans, but to support, expand and develop it in the spirit of genuine, consistent, determined and militant democracy.

[1] Land Bill of the 33 Deputies. This "Basic Land Bill" signed by 33 deputies, mostly Trudoviks, was put forward at the session of the First State Duma on June 6 (19), 1906. In contrast to the Bill of the "104", the Bill of the 33 advanced as its main demand immediate and complete abolition of private ownership of the land. The Duma rejected the Bill on June 8 (21).

Further details of the Trudovik Land Bills are given on pp. 469-70 of this volume.

Published: Ekho, No. 10, July 2, 1906.
Published according to the Ekho text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 85-87.

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