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Old Problems and the Senile Decay of Liberalism

V. I. Lenin

Deputy Shingaryov, one of the most prominent Cadets,[1] recently delivered a lecture in St. Petersburg on "The New Duma and Old Problems", a lively, interesting and topical subject.

As is the custom, our Cadet trounced the Octobrists[2]. "The Octobrists", he exclaimed, "hesitate to associate themselves with the Right wing and dare not associate with the Left" (Rech[3] No. 70). Our bold (bold, that is, before a democratic audience) Cadet apparently regards the Progressists as belonging to the "Left". But Mr. Shingaryov remained silent on the fact that three quarters of these closest friends and political comrades-in-arms of the Cadets are themselves Octobrists.

He wants democrats to regard the Cadets as "Lefts" not withstanding the permanent and very close bloc that actually exists between the Cadets and the Progressists, who stand half way between the Cadets and the Octobrists! In other words—the Cadets are angling for the democrats although they are themselves actually held in captivity by the Progressists, who are notoriously anti-democratic.

    "The torpor reminds one of the stale of passengers in a train that has been held up at a wayside station," said Mr. Shingaryov, speaking of the Fourth Duma. "To shake off their torpor and get the train going the passengers would have to clear the way themselves. But to get the heavy Legislative machine going, the strength of the passengers alone is not enough. There are three padlocks on our re forms—the law of June 3, the upper chamber and the fact that the executive authorities are not responsible. How these three padlocks will be opened, whether in peace and quietness or in some other way, history will show. Our contemporaries cannot remain absolute non-participants; they must all pull together" (Rech No. 70).
References to history are convenient! Mr. Shingaryov and the Cadets refer to history in the same way as those people about whom Marx said that they defend the whip because it is a historical whip.[4]

"History will," of course, "show how the padlocks will be opened"; that is an incontestable and fruitless truism. It is an excuse deriving from senile decay. A politician must be able to say which class owns the padlocks and which classes must open them and by what means.

"History will show" exactly what it showed seven and a half years ago—the fruitlessness of liberal reformism and liberal dreams of living in peace with the class that owns the "padlocks".


[1] Cadets—members of the Constitutional-Democratic Party—the chief party of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie in Russia, founded in October 1905. The Cadets called themselves the "party of people's freedom", but in reality strove to come to terms with the autocracy in order to retain tsarism in the form of a constitutional monarchy. At the time of the First World War (1914–18) they demanded "war till victory is won". After the victory of the February Revolution they came to terms with the S.R. and Menshevik leaders of the Petrograd Soviet and as a result acquired a leading position in the bourgeois Provisional Government where they pursued an anti-popular, counter-revolutionary policy. Following the October Socialist Revolution they acted as the agents-of foreign imperialism and were the organisers of the internal counter-revolutionary forces. Lenin called the Cadet Party the all-Russian headquarters of the counter-revolution.

[2] Octobrists—members of the Union of October Seventeenth—a party that took shape after the publication of the tsar's Manifesto of October 17, 1905. It was a counter-revolutionary party that represented the big bourgeoisie and big capitalist farmers. Its leaders were the well-known industrialist and Moscow house-owner, A. Guchkov, and the big landed proprietor M. Rodzyanko. The Octobrists gave full support to the domestic and foreign policy of the tsarist government.

[3] Rech (Speech)—the central daily newspaper of the Cadet Party that was published in St. Petersburg from February 1906 onwards. It was suppressed by the Military-Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet on October 26 (November 8), 1917, but continued to appear under other names until August 1918.

[4] Lenin here refers to a statement by Marx in his Introduction to A Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right: "A school that legitimises the vileness of today by the vileness of yesterday, a school that declares every cry of the serf against the whip to be rebellious since the whip is an ancient, hereditary, historical whip ... that historical school of law would have invented German history if it had not itself been invented by German history." (See Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Werke, Bd. 1, S. 380, Dietz Verlag, Berlin, 1956.)

Published: Pravda No. 71, March 26, 1913. Signed: M..
Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 31-32.
Translated: The Late George Hanna

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