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The Black Hundreds

V. I. Lenin

There is in our Black-Hundred movement one exceedingly original and exceedingly important feature that has not been the subject of sufficient attention. That feature is ignorant peasant democracy, democracy of the crudest type but also extremely deep-seated.

No matter how much the commanding classes try to fence our political parties off from the people both by means of the June Third election law and by thousands of "peculiar features" of our political system, reality has its way. Every political party, even of the extreme Right, has to seek some sort of link with the people.

The extreme Rights constitute the party of the landowners. They cannot, however, confine themselves to links with the landowners alone. They have to conceal those links and pretend that they are defending the interests of the entire people, that they stand for the "good old", "stable" way of rural life. They have to appeal to the most deep-rooted prejudices of the most backward peasant, they have to play on his ignorance.

Such a game cannot be played without risk. Now and again the voice of the real peasant life, peasant democracy, breaks through all the Black-Hundred mustiness and cliché. Then the Rights are compelled to get rid of the "inconvenient" peasant democrat. Naturally this banishment of the most faithful Black Hundreds, their expulsion from their own camp by the extreme Rights because of their democracy, is not without its educational effect on the masses.

Bishop Nikon, an extreme Right-winger has, for instance, been forced to abandon his Duma work. Why?

A letter from Bishop Nikon himself, published in Yeniseiskaya Mysl[1], gives a clear answer to this. It stands to reason that Bishop Nikon dare not speak openly about the reasons for his withdrawal. But Bishop Nikon, quoting a letter from a peasant, does write: "The land, bread and other important questions of our Russian life and of the region do not appear to reach either the hands or the hearts of the authorities or the Duma. These questions and such solution of them as is possible are regarded as ‘utopian’, ‘hazardous’, untimely. Why do you keep silent, what are you waiting for? For moods and revolts for which those same ‘undernourished’, hungry, unfortunate peasants will be shot down? We are afraid of ‘big’ issues and reforms, we limit ourselves to trivialities and trifles, good though they may be."

That is what Bishop Nikon writes. And that is what very many Black-hundred peasants think. It is quite understandable why Bishop Nikon had to be removed from Damn affairs and Duma speeches for such statements.

Bishop Nikon expresses his Black-Hundred democracy in arguments that are, in essence, very far from correct. The land, bread and all other important questions do reach the hands and hearts (and pockets) of the "authorities" and the Duma;

The "authorities" and the Puma provide "such solution" to these questions "as is possible"—and it is indeed the possible solution, the one that accords with the interests and power of the landowners who are dominant among the authorities and in the Duma.

Bishop Nikon realises that his Black-Hundred views are being undermined by the real slate of affairs; they are being destroyed by what he observes in the Puma and in the attitude of the "authorities", etc. Bishop Nikon, however, cannot understand the reason for all this, or is afraid to understand it.

But reality will win through, and out of ten in any village who think as Bishop Nikon does, nine will, in the long run, most likely prove less obtuse in mastering the lessons of life than the bishop.

[1] Yeniseiskaya Mysl (Yenisei Thought)—a daily bourgeois liberal newspaper published in Krasnoyarsk from 1912 to 1915.

Published: Pravda Truda No. 14, September 26, 1913.
Published according to the Pravda Truda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 390-391.
Translated: The Late George Hanna

eSource: Marxists.org - Marxists Internet Archive
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