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The Elections and the Opposition

V. I. Lenin

Marxists long ago defined their fundamental attitude to the elections. The right-wing parties—from Purishkevich to Guchkov—the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie (Cadets and Progressists) and the democrats (worker democrats and bourgeois democrats, i.e., Trudoviks) are the three principal camps contesting the elections. The distinction between these camps is a basic one, for they represent different classes and have entirely different programmes and tactics. Correct practical conclusions regarding the election campaign can only be drawn if the principles on which each of the three camps bases its policy are clearly understood.

The Marxists fully established these points[1] about six months ago, and since then they have been proved correct above all by the utterances of the liberal opposition. Our "neighbours and enemies on the right", while by no means sharing our views, have with commendable zeal provided us with the best confirmation of the correctness of our points. We may proclaim the following law: the development of Cadet political activity and political views provides excel lent evidence in support of Marxist views. Or, in other words: when a Cadet begins to speak, you may rest assured that he will refute the views of liberal labour politicians no less effectively than a Marxist.

That is why, incidentally, it is doubly useful for the workers to look closely into Cadet policy: first of all, they will get to know the liberal bourgeois very well and, secondly, they will learn to see more clearly the mistakes made by certain supporters of the working class.

It is this doubly useful result that one may well expect from the recent comments of Rech on the important pre-election statements made by Russkiye Vedomosti. These are statements by Mr. Akimov (V. Makhnovets), an old Economist, i.e., an opportunist of the period 1897–1902. They amount to a straightforward defence of the "progressive bloc", whose "platform" (a platform that, by the way, has not been published!) Mr. Akimov, who chooses to call him self a Social-Democrat, considers "perfectly acceptable for the Social-Democrats".

We have been, and are still being, told by numerous political babes (from Paris to Krasnoyarsk) and seasoned diplomats (from Vienna to Vilna)[3], that a liberal labour policy is a "bogey". But take a look at Mr. Akimov, my dear opponents! You will probably be unable to deny that Akimov is an obvious embodiment of liberal labour policy. Nor will you be able to say that he is unique, i.e., that he is an isolated phenomenon and an inimitable rarity, the only one of its kind. For, numerous though Mr. Akimov's inimitable qualities are, he is not an isolated phenomenon, and it would be a downright untruth to say he is. He made his statement after and in the same vein as Mr. Prokopovich. He found for himself a widely circulated liberal paper, a convenient rostrum from which his speeches carry far. He obtained a "good press" among the liberal journalists. Oh, no, he is not an isolated phenomenon. It does not matter that he ceased long ago to belong to any group. It does not matter that his right to the name of Social-Democrat is absolutely fictitious. But be represents a political line which has roots, which is living and, though it often goes into hiding, invariably comes into the open when there is the slightest revival of political activity.

Rech "gives full credit to the sober realism" of Mr. Akimov's arguments, and stresses with especial pleasure his opinion that "the Social-Democrats should at present put forward those of their political aims that will have the support of sufficiently large, politically strong sections of the people".

Rech certainly has good reason to rejoice. What Nasha Zarya says with a thousand twists and turns, piling one little reservation on another, covering up its tracks, and flaunting pseudo-Marxist catchwords that have long become out worn, Mr. Akimov blurts out bluntly and rather brusquely, rather simply, with a naïiveté verging on innocence.

From a formal point of view, Nasha Zarya and Nevsky Golos are perfectly in a position, of course, to disclaim all responsibility for Mr. Akimov. But what actually happens is that the general reader, who is not versed in fine points and is not interested in them, derives "Akimovism", and nothing but "Akimovism", from these liquidationist publications. "Don't wreck the Progressist cause," wrote Martov. "Put forward those aims" that will have the support of the Progressists, writes Akimov, who, naturally, makes the reservation that the non-partisanship of the Progressists makes it easier for any party to maintain its independence (on paper). To put forward more aims than are acceptable to the Progressists means precisely to "wreck" their cause—this is how Martov's slogan is interpreted by the actual political struggle, by the crowd which Akimov represents so well.

Akimov is convinced that the Cadets and Progressists constitute "large and politically strong sections of the people". This is just the sort of liberal untruth about which Nevskaya Zvezda wrote in a recent article on the nature and significance of the Marxists' polemics against the liberals[2]. In reality, however, the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie, taken as a whole, comprising the Cadets, the Progressists and many others, is a very small section of the people and one that is remarkably weak politically.

The bourgeoisie can never constitute a large section of the people. As for being politically strong, it can be and is that in a whole series of capitalist countries, but not in Prussia or Russia. In these two countries, its amazing, monstrous, all but incredible political impotence is fully explained by the fact that the bourgeoisie here is far more afraid of revolution than it is of reaction. Political impotence is an inevitable result of this. And all talk about the "political strength" of the bourgeoisie is thoroughly false, and consequently good for nothing at all, if it avoids this fundamental feature of the state of affairs in Russia.

Mr. Akimov has come out as a most outspoken and moderate liberal. We regard you as a force, Cadet and Progressist gentlemen, he says. We fully accept your platform (although there is no such platform!) and we ourselves are now putting forward those aims that have your support. All we ask of you is "that the list of the [Progressist] bloc should include the Social-Democrats". This is what Akimov wrote, word for word! I will accept everything, anything, he says, if only you include me in the liberal list!

It was truly ungracious of Rech to decline even so moderate a request. After all, it is a question of the June Third voters, the Cadets remind Akimov. And what do the Social-Democrats amount to among them? Nothing, "with the exception of the big cities, of which there is no question". And the official Cadet newspaper condescendingly teaches the humble and docile Akimov: "Apart from the border regions, they [the Social-Democrats] will almost everywhere else have to be guided, not by the hope of putting up candidates of their own, but by considerations making for the victory of the progressive bloc over the reactionary bloc of the oppressors of the people."

The liberal has brusquely declined to take the hand humbly proffered by the liberal labour politician! A well-deserved reward for refusing to fight in the big cities. The big cities belong to us because we are strong, say the Cadets, and the rest of Russia belongs to us because the June Third men and their June Third law, which guarantees our monopoly of opposition, are strong too.

Not a bad reply. The lesson which Akimov has been taught is a cruel but useful one.


[1] See present edition, Vol. 17, pp. 397–402.—Ed.

[2] See pp. 122–28 of this volume.—Ed.

[3] By "political babes" Lenin means here the Bolshevik conciliators who had their little groups in Russia and abroad.

The "seasoned diplomats" were the few liquidators grouped around Trotsky's Vienna Pravda, and the Bund leaders.

Published: Nevskaya Zvezda No. 14, June 24, 1912.
Signed: K. F.. Published according to the text in Nevskaya Zvezda.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 132-135.
Translated: Stepan Apresyan

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