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The Cadet Assembly Bill

V. I. Lenin

Among the bills on civil liberties submitted to the Duma by the Cadets there is one on assembly.

The Cadets consider themselves a democratic party. They must realise that an assembly bill submitted to the Fourth Duma has a purely propaganda value, i.e., that the purpose of its submission to the house is the propaganda, dissemination and explanation of the principles of freedom of assembly.

It is from this point of view that the Cadet bill must be appraised—will it help explain to the population of Russia the significance of freedom of assembly, the importance of that freedom and the conditions under which it can be achieved?

It will not. The bill has been drawn up by liberal civil servants, not by democrats. It contains a mass of absurd, bureaucratic rules, but not what is needed from the stand point of democracy.

Meetings are forbidden on railway lines (§ 3) or within a distance of one verst[1] of the building where the State Duma is in session, etc. (§ 4); a preliminary announcement is required in towns but not in villages (§§ 6 and 7), and so on—what is all this? What is the need for all this miserable, ridiculous, pitiful bureaucratic nonsense?

It has all been copied from European counter-revolutionary laws, every bit of it reeks of periods when democracy was under suspicion or suppressed, and it is all hopelessly out of date. It is in the towns, for example, that public meetings are announced in the newspapers—so why this idiotic fuss about "announcements"? For the sole reason that the Cadets want to show the powers that be that they, the Cadets, have a "statesmanly" point of view, that they are "people of law and order" (i.e., enemies of democracy), and that they are "also able to appreciate" civil service pettifoggery.

There is nothing important or serious in the bill as far as present-day democracy is concerned. What the masses need are premises in which to hold meetings. We need a law to the effect that, on the demand of, say, a definite small number of citizens, all public buildings, schools, etc., must be made available to the people for meetings, free and unhindered, in the evenings and, in general, in non-working hours. This is done in France, and there can be no other obstacles to this democratic custom than the barbarity of the Purishkeviches.

The fact of the matter is that the whole spirit of the Cadet bill on civil liberties, its whole content, is not democratic but liberal bureaucratic.

[1] 1 Verst = 500 sazhen = 1.0668 kilometres.

Published: Pravda No. 72, March 27, 1913.
Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 37-38.
Translated: The Late George Hanna

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