MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE |  V. I. Lenin

V. I. Lenin

CASUAL NOTES

 

I.  BEAT -- BUT NOT TO DEATH!

    On January 23, in Nizhni-Novgorod, the Moscow High Court of Justice, in a special session, with the participation of representatives of the social-estates, tried the case of the murder of the peasant Timofei Vasilyevich Vozdukhov, who had been taken to the police-station "to sober up" and there beaten up by four policemen, Shelemetyev, Shulpin, Shibayev, and Olkhovin, and by acting Station Sergeant Panov, so that he died in the hospital the next day.

    Such is the simple tale of this case, which throws a glaring light upon what usually and always goes on in our police-stations.

    As far as can be gathered from the extremely brief newspaper reports, what appears to have happened is the following. On April 20, Vozdukhov drove up to the Governor's house in a cab. The superintendent of the Governor's house came out to him; in giving evidence at the trial the superintendent stated that Vozdukhov, hatless, had been drinking but was not drunk, and that he, Vozdukhov, complained to him about a certain steamboat booking office having refused to sell him a ticket (?). The superintendent ordered Shelemetyev, the policeman on duty, to take him to the police-station. Vozdukhov was sufficiently sober to be able to speak quietly with Shelemetyev and on arriving at the police-station quite distinctly told Sergeant Panov his name and occupation. Notwithstanding all this, Shelemetyev, no doubt with the knowledge of Panov, who had just questioned Vozdukhov, "pushed" the latter, not into the common cell, in which there were a number of other drunkards, but into the adjoining

 
page 388

"soldiers' lock-up." As he pushed him, his sword got caught on the latch of the door and it cut his hand slightly; imagining that Vozdukhov was holding the sword, he rushed at him to strike him, shouting that his hand had been cut. He struck Vozdukhov with all his might in the face, in the chest, in the side; he struck him so hard that Vozdukhov fell, striking his forehead on the door and begging for mercy. "Why are you beating me?" he implored, according to the statement of a witness, Semakhin, who was in the neighbouring cell at the time. "It was not my fault. Forgive me, for Christ's sake!" According to the evidence of this witness, it was not Vozdukhov who was drunk, but sooner Shelemetyev. Shelemetyev's colleagues, Shulpin and Shibayev, who had been continuously drinking in the police-station since the first day of Easter week (April 20 was Tuesday, the third day of Easter week), learned that Shelemetyev was "teaching" (the expression used in the indictment!) Vozdukhov a lesson. They went into the soldiers' lock-up accompanied by Olkhovin, who was on a visit from another station, and attacked Vozdukhov with their fists and feet. Police Sergeant Panov came on the scene and struck Vozdukhov on the head with a book, and then with his fists. "Oh! they beat and beat him so hard that my belly ached for pity," said a woman witness, who was under arrest there at the time. When the "lesson" was over, the sergeant very coolly ordered Shibayev to wipe the blood from the victim's face -- it would not look so bad then; the chief might see it -- and then to fling him into the common cell. "Brothers!" cried Vozdukhov to the other detainees, "see how the police have beaten me. Be my witnesses, I'll lodge a complaint." But he never lived to lodge the complaint. The following morning, he was found in a state of unconsciousness and sent to the hospital where he died within eight hours without coming to himself again. A post-mortem revealed ten broken ribs, bruises all over his body, and haemorrhage of the brain.

    The court sentenced Shelemetyev, Shulpin, and Shibayev to four years' penal servitude, and Olkhovin and Panov to one month's detention, finding them guilty only of "insulting behaviour.". . .

 
page 389

    With this sentence we shall commence our examination of the case. Those sentenced to penal servitude were charged according to Articles 346 and 1490, Part II, of the Penal Code. The first of these articles provides that an official inflicting wounds or injuries in the exercise of his duties is liable to the maximum penalty reserved "for the perpetration of such a crime." Article 1490, Part II, provides for a penalty of from eight to ten years' penal servitude for inflicting torture resulting in death. Instead of inflicting the maximum penalty, the court, consisting of representatives of the social-estates and crown judges, reduced the sentence by two degrees (sixth degree, eight to ten years of penal servitude; seventh degree, four to six years, i.e., it made the maximum reduction of sentence permitted by the law in cases of extenuating circumstances, and, more over, imposed the minimum penalty of that low degree. In a word, the court did all it could to let the culprits off as lightly as possible; in fact, it did more than it could, because it evaded the law concerning the "maximum penalty." Of course, we do not wish to assert that "supreme justice" demanded precisely ten and not four years' penal servitude; the essential point is that the murderers were declared to be murderers and that they were sentenced to penal servitude. But we cannot refrain from noting a tendency characteristic of the court of crown judges and representatives of the estates; when they try a police official, they are ready to display the greatest clemency, but when they sit in judgement over an act committed against the police, as is well known, they display inexorable severity.*


    * In passing, we shall adduce another fact indicating the punishments imposed by our courts for various crimes. A few days after the Vozdukhov murder trial, the Moscow District Military Tribunal tried a private in the local artillery brigade for stealing fifty pairs of trousers and a few pairs of boots, while on guard duty in the storeroom. The sentence was four years' penal servitude. A human life entrusted to the police is equal in value to fifty pairs of trousers and a few pairs of boots entrusted to a sentry. In this peculiar "equation" the whole of our police state system is reflected as the sun is reflected in a drop of water. The individual against state power is nothing. Discipline within the state power is everything . . . pardon me, "everything" only for the small fry. A petty thief is sentenced to penal servitude, but the big thieves, the magnates, cabinet ministers, bank directors, build-[cont. onto p. 390. -- DJR] ers of railways, engineers, contractors, etc., who plunder the Treasury of property valued at tens and hundreds of thousands of rubles are punished only on very rare occasions, and at the worst are banished to remote provinces where they may live at ease on their loot (the bank thieves in Western Siberia), and from where it is easy to escape across the frontier (Colonel cf Gendarmes Mérallville de Saint-Clair).

    With a police sergeant before it, how could the court refuse him clemency? He had met Vozdukhov as he was brought in and apparently had ordered him to be placed, not in a common cell, but first, in order to teach him a lesson, in the soldiers' lock-up. He took part in the assault, using his fists and a book (no doubt a copy of the Penal Laws); he gave orders to have all traces of the crime removed (to wipe away the blood). On the night of April 20 he reported to the inspector, Mukhanov, upon his return, "everything in order at the station in his charge" (his exact words!) -- but he had nothing to do with the murderers, he was only guilty of an insulting act, just insulting behaviour, punishable by detention. Quite naturally, this gentleman, Mr. Panov, innocent of murder, is still in the police service occupying the post of a village police sergeant. Mr. Panov has merely transferred his useful directing activities in "teaching lessons" to the common people from the town to the country. Now, reader, tell us in all conscience, can Sergeant Panov understand the sentence of the court to mean any thing else than advice in the future to remove the traces of a crime more thoroughly, to "teach" in such a manner as to leave no trace? You did right in ordering the blood to be wiped from the face of the dying man, but you allowed him to die. That, pal, was careless. In the future be more careful and never forget the first and last commandment of the Russian Derzhimorda[143]: "Beat -- but not to death!"

    From the ordinary human point of view, the sentence Panov drew was a mockery of justice. It reveals a cringing, servile spirit, an attempt to throw the whole blame upon the minor police officers and to shield their immediate chief with whose knowledge, approval, and participation this brutal crime was committed. From the juridical point of view, the sentence is an example of the casuistry resorted to by bureaucratic judges who are themselves not far re-

 
page 391

moved from police sergeants. Speech was given to man to conceal his thoughts, say the diplomats. Our jurists may say that the law is given to distort the concepts of guilt and responsibility. Indeed, what refined juridical art is required to be able to reduce complicity in torture to simple insulting behaviour! Panov was guilty of an offence equal in gravity to that perhaps committed by a factory hand who possibly on the morning of April 20 mischievously struck Vozdukhov's cap off his head! In fact, milder than that: it was not an offence but merely an "infringement." Even participation in a brawl (let alone the brutal assault upon a helpless man), if it results in a fatality, is liable to a severer punishment than that meted out to the police sergeant. Legal chicanery took advantage of the fact that the law provides for various degrees of punishment for inflicting injuries in the exercise of official duties and allows the court the discretion to pronounce sentences ranging from two months' imprisonment to permanent banishment to Siberia, according to the circumstances of the case. Of course, it is quite a rational rule not to bind a judge to strictly formal definitions, but to allow him certain latitude. Our professors of criminal law have often praised Russian legislation for this and have emphasised its liberal character. However, in praising our law, they lose sight of one trifle, namely, that, for rational laws to be applied, it is necessary to have judges who are not reduced to the role of mere officials, that it is necessary to have representatives of the public in the court, and for public opinion to play its part in the examination of cases. Secondly, the assistant public prosecutor came to the aid of the court by withdrawing the charge against Panov (and Olkhovin) of torture and cruelty and pleading only for a sentence for insulting behaviour. In his plea, the assistant prosecutor called expert evidence to prove that the blows inflicted by Panov were neither numerous nor painful. As you see, the juridical sophistry is not very ingenious: since Panov did less beating than the others, it may be argued that his punches were not very painful, and since they were not very painful, it may be argued that his offence was not "torture and cruelty"; and since it was not torture and cruelty, then it was merely insulting behaviour. All this works out to

 
page 392

everybody's satisfaction, and Mr. Panov remains in the ranks of the guardians of law and order. . . .*

    We have just referred to the participation of representatives of the public in court trials, and to the part that should be played by public opinion. The case in point is an excellent illustration. In the first place, why was this case tried, not by a jury, but by a court of crown judges and representatives of the estates? Because the government of Alexander III, having declared ruthless war upon every public aspiration towards liberty and independence, very soon found that trial by jury was dangerous. The reactionary press declared trial by jury to be "trial by the street," and launched against it a campaign which, be it said in passing, continues to this day. The government adopted a reactionary programme. Having crushed the revolutionary movement of the seventies, it insolently declared to the representatives of the people that it regarded them as the "street," the mob, which must not interfere in the


    * In Russia, instead of exposing the outrage in all its horror before the court and the public, they prefer to hush up the case in court and do nothing more than send out circular letters and orders full of pompous but meaningless phrases. For instance, a few days ago the Orel Chief of Police issued an order which, confirming previous orders, instructs the local police inspectors to impress upon subordinates, personally and through their assistants, that they must refrain from roughness and violence in handling drunkards in the streets and when taking them to the police-station to sober up. The order further specifies that police officers must explain to their subordinates that it is the duty of the police to protect drunkards who cannot be left alone without obvious danger to themselves; that subordinate police officers, whom the law has placed in the position of first protectors and guardians of citizens, must, therefore, in taking drunkards into custody, not only refrain from treating them roughly and inhumanly, but must do all they can to protect them until they have become sober. The order warns subordinate police officials that only by such conscientious and lawful exercise of their duties will they earn the confidence and respect of the population, and that if, on the contrary, police officials treat drunkards harshly and cruelly, or resort to violent conduct incompatible with the duty of a police officer, who should serve as a model of respectability and good morals, they will be punished with all the vigour of the law and any subordinate police officer guilty of such conduct will be rigorously prosecuted. A capital idea for a cartoon in a satirical journal -- a police sergeant, acquitted of the charge of murder, reading an order that he must serve as a model of respectability and good morals!

 
page 393

work of legislation, let alone interfere in the administration of the state, and which must be driven from the sanctuary where Russian citizens are tried and punished according to the Panov method. In 1887 a law was passed removing crimes committed by and against officials from the jurisdiction of courts sitting with a jury and transferring them to courts of crown judges and representatives of the estates. It is well known that these representatives of the estates, merged into a single collegium with the bureaucratic judges, are mute super-numeraries playing the miserable role of witnesses ready to say yes to everything the officials of the Department of Justice decide. This is one of a Iong series of laws adopted during the latest reactionary period of Russian history and having one single tendency in common: to re-establish a "sound authority." Under the pressure of circumstances, the government in the latter half of the nineteenth century was compelled to come into contact with the "street"; but the character of the street changed with astonishing rapidity and the ignorant inhabitants gave place to citizens who were beginning to understand their rights and who were capable even of producing the champions of their rights. Realising this, the government drew back in horror, and is now making convulsive efforts to surround itself by a Chinese Wall, to immure itself in a fortress into which no manifestations of independent public action can penetrate. . . . But I have strayed somewhat from my subject.

    Thanks to the reactionary law, the street was deprived of the right to try representatives of the government. Officials have been tried by officials. This has affected, not only the sentence passed by the court, but also the character of the preliminary investigation and the trial. Trial by the street is valuable because it breathes a living spirit into the bureaucratic formalism which pervades our government institutions. The street is interested, not only, and not so much, in the definition of the given of fence (insulting behaviour, assault, torture), or in the category of punishment to be imposed; it is interested in exposing thoroughly and bringing to public light the significance and all the social and political threads of the crime, in order to draw lessons in public morals and practical

 
page 394

politics from the trial. Tho street does not want to see in the court "an official institution," in which functionaries apply to given cases the corresponding articles of the Penal Code, but a public institution which exposes the ulcers of the present system, which provides material for criticising it and, consequently, for improving it. Impelled by its practical knowledge of public affairs and by the growth of political consciousness, the street is discovering the truth for which our official, professorial jurisprudence, weighed down by its scholastic shackles, is groping with such difficulty and timidity -- namely, that in the fight against crime the reform of social and political institutions is much more important than the imposition of punishment. For this reason the reactionary publicists and the reactionary government hate, and cannot help hating, trial by the street. For this reason the curtailments put on the competency of jury courts and the restrictions on publicity run like a scarlet thread throughout the whole of the post-Reform history of Russia; indeed, the reactionary character of the "post-Reform" epoch was exposed immediately after the law of 1864, reforming our "judicature," came into force.* The absence of "trial by the street" was markedly felt in this particular case. Who in the court that tried this case could have been interested in its social aspect, and who would have sought to bring it out prominently? The public prosecutor? The official who is closely connected with the police, who shares responsibility for the detention of prisoners and the manner in which they are treated, who, in certain cases, is actually the chief of police? We have seen that the assistant prosecutor even withdrew the charge of torture against Panov. The civil plaintiff -- in the event that Vozdukhova, the widow of the murdered man and a witness


    * In their polemics in the legal press against the reactionaries, the liberal advocates of trial by jury often categorically deny its political significance and endeavour to show that they favour participation of public representatives in the courts for reasons other than political. This may partly be explained by the lack of ability on the part of our jurists to think politically to a logical conclusion, notwithstanding their specialisation in "political" science. But, chiefly, it is to be explained by the necessity to speak in Aesopean language, by the impossibility openly to declare their sympathies for a constitution.

 
page 395

at the trial, had put in a civil claim against the murderers? But how was this simple woman to know that it was permissible to bring a civil claim for damages before a criminal court? But even had she known it, would she have been able to retain a lawyer? And even had she been able to do so, could a lawyer have been found who was willing to call public attention to the state of affairs brought to light by this murder? And even if such a lawyer had been found, would his "civic zeal" have been supported by such "delegates" of the public as the representatives of the social-estates? Picture to yourself a rural district elder -- I have in mind a provincial court -- embarrassed in his rustic clothes, not knowing what to do with his rough, peasant hands, awkwardly trying to conceal his feet encased in greased top-boots, gazing with awe upon His Excellency, the president of the court, who is seated on the same bench with him. Or imagine a city mayor, a fat merchant, breathing heavily in his unaccustomed livery, with his chain of office round his neck, trying to ape his neighbour, a Marshal of the Nobility, a gentleman in a nobleman's uniform, who looks sleek and well tended, with aristocratic manners. By his side are judges, men who have gone through the hard grind of the school of bureaucracy, genuine functionaries who have grown grey in the service and are filled with a consciousness of the importance of the duty they have to fulfil -- to try representatives of the authorities whom the street is not worthy to try. Would not this scene dampen the ardour of the most eloquent lawyer? Would it not remind him of the ancient aphorism: "neither cast ye your pearls before. . ."?

    And so it happened that the case was rushed through at express speed, as if all concerned were eager to get it off their hands as quickly as possible,* as if they feared to rake too thoroughly in the muck; one may get accustomed to living near a cesspool and not notice the foul odours emanating from it, but as soon as an attempt is made to cleanse it,


    * No one, however, thought of bringing the case to trial quickly. Despite the fact that the case was remarkably clear and simple, it was not tried until January 23, 1901, although the crime had been committed on April 20, 1899. A speedy, just, and merciful trial!

 
page 396

the stench assails the nostrils, not only of the inhabitants of the particular street, but also of those of the neighbouring streets.

    Just think of the number of questions that naturally arise and that no one has taken the trouble to clear up! Why did Vozdukhov go to the Governor? The indictment -- the document which embodied the effort of the prosecuting authorities to disclose the crime -- not only failed to reply to this question, but deliberately obscured it with the statement that Vozdukhov "was detained in a state of intoxication in the courtyard of the Governor's house by policeman Shelemetyev." It even gives ground for the assumption that Vozdukhov was brawling -- and where do you think? In the courtyard of the Governor's house! In actuality, Vozdukhov drove up to the Governor's house in a cab in order to lodge a complaint -- this fact was established. What did he go to complain about? Ptitsyn, the superintendent of the Governor's house, stated that Vozdukhov had complained about the refusal of a steamship booking office to sell him a ticket (?). The witness Mukhanov, formerly inspector of the station in which Vozdukhov was assaulted (and now governor of the provincial prison in Vladimir), stated that he had heard from Vozdukhov's wife that she and her husband had been drinking and that in Nizhni they had been beaten up in the river police-station and in the Rozhdestvensky police-station, and that Vozdukhov had gone to the Governor to complain about this. Notwithstanding the fact that the witnesses obviously contradicted each other, the court did not make the slightest attempt to clear up the matter. On the contrary, one has every reason to conclude that the court did not wish to clear up the matter. Vozdukhov's wife gave evidence at the trial, but no one took the trouble to ask her whether she and her husband had really been assaulted in several Nizhni police-stations, under what circumstances they had been arrested, in what premises they had been assaulted, and by whom, whether her husband had really wished to complain to the Governor, and whether he had mentioned his intention to any one else. Most likely the witness Ptitsyn, an official in the Governor's office, was not inclined to accept complaints from Vozdukhov -- who was not drunk? but whom, nevertheless, it was necessary to make

 
page 397

sober! -- against the police and ordered the intoxicated policeman Shelemetyev to take the complainant to the police-station to be sobered up. But this interesting witness was not cross-examined. The cabby, Krainov, who had driven Vozdukhov to the Governor's house and. subsequently to the police-station, was not questioned as to whether Vozdukhov had told him why he was going to the Governor, as to what he had said to Ptitsyn, and whether anybody else had heard the conversation. The court was satisfied merely to hear the brief written affidavit of Krainov (who did not appear in court) which testified that Vozdukhov had not been drunk, but only slightly intoxicated, and the assistant prosecutor had not even taken the trouble to subpoena this important witness. If we bear in mind that Vozdukhov, a sergeant in the army reserve and consequently a man of experience who must have known something about law and order, had said even after the last fatal blows, "I am going to lodge a complaint," it appears more than likely that he went to the Governor to lodge a complaint against the police, that Ptitsyn lied to shield the police and that the servile judges and the servile prosecutor did not wish to bring this delicate story to light.

    Further, why was Vozdukhov beaten? Again the indictment presents the case in a manner most favourable . . . to the accused. The "motive for the torture," it is alleged, was the cutting of Shelemetyev's hand when he pushed Vozdukhov into the soldiers' lock-up. The question arises, why was Vozdukhov, who spoke calmly both with Shelemetyev and with Panov, pushed (assuming that it was really necessary to push him!), not into the common cell, but first into the soldiers' lock-up? He had been brought to the station to be sobered up -- there were already a number of drunkards in the common cell, and later on Vozdukhov was put into the common cell; why, then, did Shelemetyev, after "introducing" him to Panov, push him into the soldiers' lock-up ? Evidently for the purpose of beating him. In the common cell there were a number of people, whereas in the soldiers' lock-up Vozdukhov would be alone, and Shelemetyev could call to his aid his comrades and Mr. Panov, who was "in charge" of Police-Station No. 1 at the time. Consequently, the torture was inflicted, not for some chance reason, but

 
page 398

deliberately and with forethought. We can assume one of two things -- either that all who are taken to the police station for sobering up (even when they behave themselves decently and quietly) are first put into the soldiers' lock-up to be "taught a lesson," or that Vozdukhov was put in there precisely for the reason that he had gone to the Governor to lodge a complaint against the police. The newspaper reports of the trial are so brief that one hesitates to express oneself categorically in favour of the second hypothesis (which is not at all improbable); but the preliminary investigation and the court examination could have cleared this point up beyond any doubt. It stands to reason that the court did not pay any attention whatever to this. I say "it stands to reason," because the indifference of the court reflects not only bureaucratic formalism, but the simple point of view of the Russian man in the street. "What is there to make a fuss about? A drunken muzhik was killed in a police-station! Worse things than that happen!" And the man in the street begins to relate scores of incomparably more revolting cases, in which the culprits have gone scot-free. The remarks of the man in the street are absolutely just; nevertheless, his attitude is absolutely wrong and by his arguments he merely reveals his extreme, philistine short-sightedness. Are not incomparably more revolting cases of police tyranny possible in our country only because this tyranny is the common, everyday practice in every police-station? And is not our indignation impotent against these exceptional cases because we, with customary indifference, tolerate the "normal" cases; because our indifference remains unperturbed, even when a customary practice like an assault upon a drunken (or allegedly drunken) "muzhik" in a police-station rouses the protest of this very muzhik (who ought to be accustomed to this sort of thing), of this very muzhik, who paid with his life for his most impertinent attempt to submit a humble petition to the Governor?

    There is another reason why we must not ignore this all too common case. It has long been held that the preventive significance of punishment is not in its severity, but in its inevitableness. What is important is not that a crime shall be severely punished, but that not a single

 
page 399

crime shall pass undiscovered. From this aspect, too, the present case is of interest. Illegal and savage assault is committed in police-stations in the Russian Empire -- it may be said without exaggeration -- daily and hourly,* and only rare and very exceptional cases are brought up in court. This is not in the least surprising, since the criminals are the very police who in Russia are charged with the duty of disclosing crime. These circumstances compel us to devote all the greater, if unusual, attention to those cases in which the courts are constrained to raise the curtain that conceals such habitual facts.

    Note, for example, how the police perpetrate their assault. Five or six of them together set upon their victim with brutal cruelty, many of them are drunk, all are armed with swords. But not one of them ever strikes the victim with his sword. They are men of experience and they know how to beat a man up. A sword blow leaves a mark of guilt, but try and prove that bruises made by fists were in


    * These lines were already written when the press brought another confirmation of the correctness of this assertion. At the other end of Russia, in Odessa -- a city enjoying the status of a capital -- a magistrate acquitted a certain M. Klinkov who had been charged by Station Sergeant Sadukov with disorderly conduct while under arrest in the police-station. At the trial, the accused and his four witnesses testified to the following: Sadukov arrested M. Klinkov, who was in a state of drunkenness, and took him to the police-station. When he became sober, Klinkov demanded to be released, upon which a policeman grabbed him by the collar and began to punch him. Three other policemen arrived on the scene, and the four of them fell upon him, striking him in the face, on the head, the chest and the sides. Under the rain of blows and covered with blood, Klinkov fell to the floor, where upon the policemen assaulted him with even greater fury. According to the evidence of Klinkov and his witnesses, this torture was inflicted at the instigation and with the encouragement of Sadukov. As a result of the blows he received, Klinkov lost consciousness. On reviving, he was released from the police-station. Immediately on his release he went to be examined by a physician. The magistrate advised Klinkov to lodge a complaint with the prosecutor against Sadukov and the policemen, to which Klinkov replied that he had already done so and that he would bring twenty witnesses.
    One need not be a prophet to foretell that M. Klinkov will fail to get the policemen brought to trial and punished for torture. They did not actually beat him to death; but if, contrary to expectation, they are prosecuted, they are sure to get off lightly.

 
page 400

flicted by the police! "Arrested during a brawl in which he was beaten up," -- and your case isn't worth a straw. Even in the present instance, when the man, as it happened, was beaten to death ("the devil tempted him to die, a hefty muzhik like that! Who would have thought it!"), the prosecution was obliged to bring witnesses to testify that "Vozdukhov was absolutely sound in health before he was taken to the police-station." Apparently, the murderers, who maintained throughout the trial that they had not beaten the man, stated that they had brought him to the station in a battered condition. It is an extremely difficult matter to get witnesses to give evidence in a case like this. By a happy chance, the window between the common cell and the soldiers' lock-up was not completely curtained off. True, instead of glass the panes consisted of sheets of tin with holes punched through, and on the side of the soldiers' lock-up these holes were covered up by a leather curtain. By poking a finger through a hole, one could raise the curtain and see what was going on in the soldiers' lock-up. Only through this circumstance was it possible at the trial to obtain a picture of the scene of the "lesson." But such negligence as improperly curtained windows could exist only in the past century. In the twentieth century, the little window between the common cell and soldiers' lock-up in the Kremlin district Police-Station No. 1 in Nizhni-Novgorod is no doubt blocked up. . . . And since there are no witnesses, woe betide the poor fellow who finds himself in the soldiers' lock-up!

    In no country in the world is there such a multitude of laws as in Russia. We have laws for everything. There are special regulations governing detention in custody, which specifically state that detention is legally permissible only in special premises, subject to special supervision. As you see, the law is observed. In the police-station, there is a special "common cell." But before a man is put into the common cell, it is "customary" to "shove" him into the soldiers' lock-up. Although the role of the soldiers' lock-up as a real torture chamber was perfectly clear throughout the trial, the judicial authorities did not even think of paying the matter the slightest attention. Surely, the prosecuting attorney cannot be expected to expose

 
page 401

the excesses of our brutal police and to take measures against them!

    We have referred to the question of witnesses in a case of this kind. At best, such witnesses can only be persons in the hands of the police. Only under the most exceptional circumstances would it be possible for an outsider to witness a police "lesson" given in a police-station. But it is possible for the police to influence the witnesses that are in their hands. And this is what happened in the present case. The witness Frolov, who at the time of the murder was in the common cell, stated during the preliminary investigation that Vozdukhov had been assaulted by the policemen and the sergeant; later he withdrew his testimony against Sergeant Panov; at the trial, however, he stated that none of the policemen had struck Vozdukhov, that he had been persuaded to give evidence against the police by Semakhin and Barinov (two other men in the common cell who were the principal witnesses for the prosecution), and that the police had not persuaded or prompted him to say this. The witnesses Fadeyev and Antonova stated that no one had laid a finger on Vozdukhov in the soldiers' lock-up, that everything had been quiet there and no quarrelling had taken place.

    As is to be seen, quite the usual thing happened. And the judicial authorities behaved with customary indifference. There is a law that provides severe penalties for perjury. A prosecution instituted against the two perjurers would throw further light on the outrages the police perpetrate against those who have the misfortune to fall into their hands and are almost completely defenceless (hundreds of thousands of the "common" people meet with such misfortune every day). But all that the court is concerned about is applying this or that article of the Penal Code; it is not in the least concerned about that defencelessness. This detail in the trial, like all the others, showed clearly how strong and all-entangling is the net, how persistent the canker, which can only be removed by abolishing the whole system of police tyranny and denial of the people's rights.

    About thirty-five years ago, F. M. Reshetnikov, a well-known Russian writer, met with an unpleasant adventure.

 
page 402

One evening he went to the Assembly of Nobles in St. Petersburg under the mistaken impression that a concert was to be given there. The policeman at the door barred his way and shouted at him: "What's the shoving? Who are you?" "A factory hand," roughly replied Reshetnikov, stung to anger by this affront. What followed this reply, as related by Gleb Uspensky, was that Reshetnikov spent the night in the police-station, from which he emerged bruised and battered, bereft of his money and his ring. "I report this matter to Your Excellency," wrote Reshetnikov in a petition to the St. Petersburg Chief of Police. "I seek no compensation. May I only humbly trouble you with the request that the police officers and their subordinates shall not beat people. . . . As it is, the people have only sufferings in store for them."[144]

    The modest request which a Russian writer was bold enough to make to the chief of police of the capital so long ago has not yet been fulfilled and it cannot be fulfilled so long as the present political system lasts. At the present time, however, every honest man who is tormented by the contemplation of this brutality and violence turns toward the great new movement among the people that is mustering its forces in order to wipe all brutality from the face of the land of Russia and to achieve mankind's finest ideals. During recent decades, hatred for the police has grown immensely and has become deep-rooted in the hearts of the masses of the common people. The development of urban life, the growth of industry, the spread of literacy, have all served to imbue even the uneducated masses with aspirations for a better life and a consciousness of their human dignity; the police, however, have remained as tyrannical and brutal as ever. To their bestiality we now see added a greater subtlety in the detection and persecution of the new, most dangerous enemy, i.e., everything that brings to the masses of the people a ray of consciousness of their rights and confidence in their strength. Fertilised by this consciousness and this confidence, popular hatred will find vent, not in savage vengeance, but in the struggle for liberty.


 
page 403

 


II.  WHY ACCELERATE THE VICISSITUDE OF THE TIMES?

    The Assembly of Nobles of Orel Gubernia has adopted an interesting project, but more interesting is the debate which it occasioned.

    The issue is the following. The gubernia Marshal of the Nobility, M. A. Stakhovich, proposed in his report the conclusion of a contract with the Finance Department, under which the Orel nobles would be appointed to the posts of excise-collectors. With the introduction of the liquor monopoly forty collectors are to be appointed to gather the moneys from the government liquor shops. Their remuneration will amount to 2,180 rubles per annum (900 rubles salary, 600 rubles travelling expenses, and 680 rubles for hiring a guard). The nobles thought it would be a good thing to get these posts, and for this purpose it was suggested that they form a guild and enter into a contract with the Treasury. Instead of the required deposit (from 3,000 to 5,000 rubles), they suggested that at first 300 rubles per annum be deducted from the pay of each collector, which sums could serve to establish a nobles' guaranty fund to be deposited with the liquor department.

    The proposal -- certainly a practical one -- proves that our higher estate possesses a highly developed flair for grabbing slices of the state pie wherever possible. But it is precisely this business acumen that seemed to many of the high-born landlords to be excessive, disreputable, and unworthy of nobility. A heated discussion flared up on the question, in the course of which three distinct points of view came to light.

    The first is the practical point of view. A man must live, the nobility is in straitened circumstances . . . here is an opportunity to earn money . . . surely they cannot refuse to help the poor nobles. Besides, the collectors could help to encourage sobriety among the people. The second is the point of view of the romantics. To trade in liquor, to be in a position only slightly above that of a bartender, subordinate to common store managers, "very often persons of the lower orders"!? . . . and there followed a hot stream of words about the high calling of the nobility. We intend to deal with these speeches, but first let us men-

 
page 404

tion the third point of view -- that of the statesmen. On the one hand, there is no denying that the thing seems somewhat discreditable, but, on the other, it must be admitted that it is lucrative. But we can make money and at the same time preserve our virtue. The chief excise officer may even hand out appointments without deposits, and all the forty nobles may obtain posts at the request of the gubernia Marshal of the Nobility without forming a guild or entering into contracts, otherwise "the Minister of Internal Affairs may refuse to endorse the decision in order to safeguard the proper functioning of the existing state system." In all probability, this wise opinion would have prevailed, had not the Marshal of the Nobility made two important statements: first, that the contract had already been submitted to the Council of the Ministry of Finance, which had recognised its feasibility and approved it in principle; and, secondly, that "it was impossible to obtain such posts merely at the request of the gubernia Marshal of the Nobility." The report was approved.

    Poor romantics! They suffered defeat. But how eloquently they had pleaded!

    "Hitherto the nobility has provided people for leading positions only. The report suggests the formation of some sort of guild. Is this compatible with the past, the present, and the future of the nobility? According to the law, if a bartender embezzles funds, the nobleman will have to step behind the bar. Death is preferable to such a position!"

    Good Lord! How noble man is! Death is preferable to selling vodka! To trade in corn is quite a noble occupation, particularly in years of bad harvest, when high profits can be made out of the starvation of the people. A still more noble occupation is usury in grain, the lending of grain to the starving peasants in the winter with the stipulation that they will work in the summer at one-third of the usual wage-rate. In the central black earth zone, in which Orel Gubernia is situated, the landlords have always engaged in this noble form of usury with particular zeal. And in order to draw a distinction between noble and ignoble usury, it is necessary, of course, to proclaim as loudly as possible that the position of a bartender is a degrading occupation for a nobleman,

 
page 405

    "We must carefully cherish our calling which is expressed in the celebrated imperial manifesto by the words, unselfishly to serve the people. To serve for selfish motives would contradict this. . . . A social-estate that has to its credit such services as the valiant martial deeds of its ancestors and that had to bear the brunt of the great reforms of Emperor Alexander II still possesses opportunities for the future fulfilment of its duties to the state."

    Yes, unselfish service! The distribution of lands, the granting of inhabited estates, i.e., gifts of thousands of dessiatines of land, together with thousands of serfs; the establishment of a class of big landowners possessing hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of dessiatines and by exploitation reducing millions of peasants to poverty -- these are the manifestations of this unselfishness. The reference to the "great" reforms of Alexander II is particularly charming. Take, for example, the emancipation of the peasants. How unselfishly our noble aristocracy fleeced these peasants; compelling them to pay for their own land, at a price three times its real value; robbing them by cutting off various parts of their land; exchanging their own sandy wastes, gullies, and uncultivable land for the peasants' good land; -- and now they have the insolence to boast of these exploits!

    "There is nothing patriotic in the liquor trade. . . . Our traditions are not based on rubles, but on service to the state. The nobility must not become stockbrokers."

    Sour grapes! The nobility "must not" become stockbrokers because large capital is required on the Stock Exchange, and our quondam slaveowners have squandered their fortunes. In the eyes of the broad masses they have long ago become, not stockbrokers, but the slaves of the Stock Exchange, the slaves of the ruble. And in their pursuit of the ruble, the "highest social-estate" has long been engaged in such highly patriotic occupations as the manufacture of raw brandy, the installation of sugar-refineries and other enterprises, participation in sundry dubious commercial and industrial undertakings, begging at the doors of high Court circles, grand dukes, cabinet ministers, etc., etc., in order to obtain concessions and government guarantees for such enterprises, in order to entreat for doles in the form

 
page 406

of privileges for the Nobles' Bank, sugar-export bonuses, slices (thousands of dessiatines in extent!) of Bashkirian or other land, soft, lucrative jobs, etc.

    "The ethics of the nobility bear the traces of history, of social position . . ." -- as well as traces of the stable in which the nobles were trained to practise violence and in dignities on the muzhiks. The age-long habit of command has bred in the nobles something even more subtle: the ability to clothe their exploiting interests in pompous phrases, calculated to deceive the ignorant "common people." Listen further:

    "Why accelerate the vicissitude of the times? It may be a prejudice, but old traditions forbid us to help bring these things upon ourselves. . . ."     These words, uttered by Mr. Naryshkin (one of the members of the council that advocated the state point of view), express a true class sense. Of course, to hesitate to accept the position of a collector (or even of a bartender) is, in these times, mere prejudice. But does not the unparalleled and shameless exploitation of the peasantry by the landlords in our rural districts rest on the prejudices of the benighted masses of the peasantry? Prejudices are dying out anyhow; why then hasten their death by openly bringing together the noble and the bartender, and in this way help the peasant to understand (which he is beginning to do, anyway) the simple truth that the noble landlord is a usurer and robber, a beast of prey, like any village blood sucker, only immeasurably more powerful because of the lands he owns, his ancient privileges and his close relations with the tsarist government, his habit to command, and his ability to conceal his Judas[145] nature under a doctrine of romanticism and magnanimity?

    Yes, Mr. Naryshkin is certainly a counsellor from whose lips political wisdom drops. I am not surprised that the Marshal of the Orel Nobility replied to him in terms so refined that they would do honour to an English lord. He said:

    "It would be mere boldness on my part to object to the authorities whom we have heard here, were I not convinced that in arguing against their opinions, I am not arguing against their convictions."

    Now, this is true, and, moreover, in a much wider sense than Mr. Stakhovich, who indeed accidentally let the truth

 
page 407

slip, imagined. All the nobles, from the most practical to the most romantic, share the same convictions. All are fully convinced of their "sacred right" to possess the hundreds and thousands of dessiatines of land their ancestors grabbed or had granted to them by land-grabbers, the right to exploit the peasants and play the dominant role in the state, the right to enjoy the biggest (and if the worst comes to the worst, even smaller) slices of the state pie, i.e., the people's money. Their opinions differ only in regard to the expediency of undertaking this or that enterprise, and their discussions of these divergent opinions are as instructive for the proletariat as are all other domestic quarrels in the camp of the exploiters. Such disputes bring out the differences between the common interests of the capitalist or landlord class as a whole, and the interests of individual persons or separate groups. Not infrequently in the course of such disputes, one blabs what one has sought ever so carefully to conceal.

    Besides this, however, the Orel episode throws some light upon the character of the notorious liquor monopoly. What benefits our official and semi-official press expected from it! Increased revenues, improved quality, and less drunkenness! But instead of increased revenues, all we actually have so far is an increase in the price of spirits, confusion in the budget, and the impossibility of determining the exact financial results of the whole operation. Instead of improvement in quality, we have deterioration; and the government is hardly likely to impress the public with its reports, displayed in the entire press, of the successful results of the "degustation" of the new "government vodka." Instead of less drunkenness, we have more illicit trading in spirits, augmented police incomes from this trading, the opening of liquor shops over the protests of the population, which is petitioning against their being opened,* and increased drunkenness in the streets.** But


    * For example, it was recently reported in the newspapers that as far back as 1899 a number of villages in Archangel Gubernia adopted resolutions against the opening of liquor shops in their localities. The government, which at this very moment is introducing the liquor monopoly into that district, of course answered with a refusal, no doubt out of regard for the sobriety of the people!
    ** This is quite apart from the enormous amount of money the peasant communes have lost as a result of the liquor monopoly. Hith- [cont. onto p. 408. -- DJR] erto they obtained a revenue from liquor shops. The Treasury has deprived them of this source of revenue without a kopek compensation! In his interesting book, Das hungernde Russland (Reiseelndrücke, Beobachtungen und Untersuchungen [Starving Russia (Travel Impressions, Observations, and Inquiries ). --Ed.] by C. Lebmann and Parvus, Stuttgart, Dietz Verlag, 1900), Parvus justly describes this as robbing the rural commune funds. He states that according to the calculations of the Samara Gubernia Zemstvo, the losses incurred by the peasant communes in the three years 1895-97 as a result of the introduction of the liquor monopoly amounted to 3,150,000 rubles !

 
page 408

above all, what a new and gigantic field is opened for official arbitrariness, tyranny, favour-currying and embezzlement by the creation of this new state enterprise, with a turnover of many millions of rubles, and the creation of a whole army of new officials! It is the invasion of a locust swarm of officials, boot-licking, intriguing, plundering, wasting seas of ink and reams upon reams of paper. The Orel project is nothing but an attempt to cloak in legal forms the striving to grab the fattest possible slices of the state pie, a desire which is so prevalent in our provinces, and which, in view of the unrestrained power of the officials and the gagging of the people, threatens to intensify the reign of tyranny and plunder. A simple illustration: last autumn the newspapers reported "a building incident in connection with the liquor monopoly." In Moscow, three warehouses are being built for storing vodka to supply the whole of Moscow Gubernia. The government appropriated a sum of 1,637,000 rubles for this purpose. It now appears that "it has been found necessary to make a supplementary appropriation of two and-a-half millions."* Apparently the officials who had charge of this state property pinched a little more than fifty pairs of trousers and a few pairs of boots!


III.  OBJECTIVE STATISTICS

    Our government is in the habit of accusing its opponents, not only revolutionaries, but also liberals, of being tendentious. Have you ever read the comments of the official press on the liberal (legal, of course) publications? Vest-


    * Author's italics, see S. Peterburgskiye Vedomosti (St. Petersburg Recorder ), No. 239, September 1, 1900.

nik Finansov,[146] the organ of the Ministry of Finance, would at times publish reviews of the press, and each time the official in charge of this column referred to the comments of the (big) liberal magazines on the budget, on the famine, or on some government measure, he always spoke with indignation of their "tendentiousness" and, by way of contrast, pointed, "objectively," not only to "the seamy side," but to the "gratifying features." This, of course, is only a minor example, but it illustrates the habitual attitude of the government, its habitual tendency to brag of its "objectivity."

    We shall endeavour to bring some satisfaction to these strict and impartial judges. We shall endeavour to do this in dealing with statistics. Naturally, we shall not take statistics on this or that set of facts of public life: it is well known that the facts are recorded by biased people and generalised by institutions which are sometimes decidedly "tendentious," like the Zemstvos. No, we shall deal with statistics on . . . laws. The most ardent supporter of the government, we imagine, would hardly dare to assert that there is anything more objective and impartial than statistics on laws -- a simple calculation of the decisions made by the government, quite apart from any consideration of the divergence between word and deed, between promulgation and execution, etc.

    And now, to the matter.

    The State Senate publishes, as is known, a Compendium of the Laws and Edicts of the Government, a periodical that announces the measures adopted by the government. We shall examine these facts, and note what the laws and edicts are about. Precisely: what they are about. We dare not criticise the official edicts; we shall merely compute the number issued in this or that sphere. The January newspapers reprinted from this government publication the content of Nos. 2905 to 2929 of last year and Nos. 1 to 66 of the current year. Thus, in the period from December 29, 1900, to January 12, 1901, the very threshold of the new century, ninety-one laws and edicts were promulgated. The character of these ninety-one laws renders them very convenient for "statistical" analysis. None of them is outstanding; there is nothing that puts everything else in

 
page 410

the shade and lays a special impress upon the present period of domestic administration. All of them are relatively petty and answer to current requirements continuously and regularly arising. We thus see the government in its everyday garb, and this serves as a further guarantee of the objectivity of the "statistics."

    Of the ninety-one laws, thirty-four, i.e., more than a third, deal with one and the same subject: extension of the call dates for payment of capital on shares or of payment of purchases of stock in various commercial and industrial joint-stock companies. These laws can be recommended to newspaper readers as a means of refreshing their memory in regard to the list of our industrial enterprises and the names of various firms. The second group of laws is entirely analogous to the first in content. It deals with changes in the articles of association of commercial and industrial companies. These include fifteen acts revising the articles of association of K. and S. Popov Bros., tea dealers; A. Nauman & Co., cardboard and tar-paper manufacturers; I. A. Osipov & Co., tanners, and leather, canvas and linen merchants; etc., etc. To these must be added eleven more acts, of which six were passed to meet certain requirements of trade and industry (the establishment of a public bank and a mutual credit society; the fixing of prices of securities to be taken as deposit for state contracts; rules for the movement of privately-owned cars on the railways regulations governing brokers on the Borisoglebsk Corn Exchange), while five deal with the appointment of six additional policemen and two mounted police sergeants to four factories and one mine.

    Thus, sixty out of ninety-one of the laws, i.e., two thirds, directly serve the various practical needs of our capitalists and (partly) protect them from the discontent of the workers. The impartial language of figures tells us that our government, judging by the very nature of most of its everyday laws and edicts, is a loyal servant of the capitalists and that, in relation to the capitalist class as a whole, it functions in exactly the same way as, say, the head office of an iron trust, or as does the office of a sugar-refining syndicate in relation to the capitalists in the individual branches of industry. Of course, the fact

 
page 411

that special laws have to be passed in order to introduce some trifling alteration in the articles of association of a company or to extend the call dates for payments on shares simply shows the unwieldiness of our state machinery; only a slight "improvement in the machinery" is necessary for all this to come under the jurisdiction of the local authorities. On the other hand, the unwieldiness of the machine, the excessive centralisation, the necessity for the government itself to poke its nose into everything -- this is a feature of the whole of our public life, not merely of the sphere of commerce and industry. Hence, the examination of the number of enacted laws of this or that kind gives us a pretty fair insight into what the government interests itself in, into what it thinks and does.

    But the government displays considerably less interest in private associations that do not pursue aims so honourable from the moral point of view, and safe from the political point of view, as profit-making (except that it displays interest in order to hamper, prohibit, suppress, etc.). In the period "under review" -- the writer of these lines is in the civil service, and he hopes, therefore, that the reader will forgive his employment of bureaucratic terms -- the articles of association of two societies were sanctioned (those of the Society for the Aid to Needy Students in the Vladikavkaz Boys' Gymnasium, and of the Vladikavkaz Society for Educational Excursions and Tours); by imperial grace permission to change the statutes was authorised for three others (the Saving and Mutual Aid Societies of the office employees and workers of the Lyudinovo and Sukreml Works and of the Maltsov Railway, the First Hop-Cultivation Society, and the Philanthropic Society for the Encouragement of Female Labour); fifty-five laws were passed pertaining to commercial and industrial companies; and five, in relation to various other societies. In the sphere of commercial and industrial interests, "we" exert our best efforts for the task and strive to do everything possible to facilitate association between merchants and manufacturers (strive, but do nothing, for the unwieldiness of the machine and the endless red tape considerably restrict the "possibilities" in the police state). In the sphere of non-commercial associations, we stand in principle for homeopathy. Now, hop-growing

 
page 412

societies and societies for the encouragement of female labour are not so bad, but educational excursions. . . . God knows what may be discussed on these excursions! And will not the constant surveillance of the inspectors be made difficult? Now, you know, one must be careful in handling fire.

    Schools. As many as three new schools have been established. And what schools! An elementary school for farmyard workers in the village of Blagodatnoye on the estate of His Imperial Highness, the Grand Duke Pyotr Nikolayevich. That the villages belonging to the Grand Dukes are all paradises[*] I have long ceased to doubt. But neither do I now doubt that even the highest personages may sincerely and whole-heartedly interest themselves in the education of the "younger brother." Moreover, the rules of the Dergachi Rural Handicraft School, and of the Asanovo Elementary Agricultural School have been confirmed. I regret that I have not a reference book at hand to inform me whether or not some highly-placed personage owns these village paradises, in which popular education -- and landlord farming are being cultivated with such zeal. But I console myself with the thought that such inquiries do not enter into the duties of a statistician.

    This, then, is the sum total of the laws that express "the government's solicitude for the people." As the reader will observe, I have made the greatest possible allowances in grouping these laws. Why, for example, is the Hop-Cultivation Society not a commercial enterprise? Perhaps because commerce is not the only thing that is discussed at its meetings. Or take the school for farmyard workers. Who can tell whether it is a school or an improved stockyard?

    We have still to deal with the last group of laws that shows the government's solicitude for itself. This group consists of three times as many laws as we assigned to the last two categories, twenty-two laws, dealing with administrative reforms, each one more radical than the other -- changing the name of the village Platonovskoye to Nikolayevskoye; modifying the articles of association, staffs, rules,


    * A play on the name of the village Blagodatnoye which implies an earthly paradise. --Ed.

 
page 413

lists, hours for sessions (of certain uyezd conferences), etc.; increasing the salary of midwives attached to army units in the Caucasus military area; determining the sums for shoeing and veterinary treatment of Cossack mounts; changing the by-laws of a private commercial school in Moscow; defining the rules of the scholarship grants endowed by Privy Councillor Daniil Samuilovich Polyakov at the Kozlov Commercial School. I am not sure whether I have classified these laws correctly. Do they really express the government's solicitude for itself, or for commercial and industrial interests? If I have classified them wrongly, I beg the reader's indulgence, since this is the first attempt that has been made to compile statistics on laws. Hitherto no one has attempted to raise this sphere of knowledge to the level of a strict science, not even the professors of Russian state law.

    Finally, one legislative act must be treated as a special, independent group, both because of its content and because of its being the first governmental measure in the new century. This is the law concerning the "increase in the area of forests to be devoted to the development and improvement of His Imperial Majesty's hunting." A grand début worthy of a great power!

    Now, to strike a balance. Statistics would be incomplete without it.

    Fifty laws and edicts devoted to various commercial and industrial companies and enterprises; a score of administrative name-changes and reforms; two creations and three reorganisations of private societies; three schools for the training of landlords' employees; six policemen and two mounted sergeants appointed to factories. Can there be any doubt whatever that such richly varied legislative and administrative activity will guarantee our country rapid and undeviating progress in the twentieth century?

NOTES

  [143] Derzhimorda -- the name of a policeman in N. V. Gogol's comedy The Inspector-General ; a boorish, insolent oppressor, a man of violence.    [p. 390]

  [144] Lenin quotes from Gleb Uspensky's "Fyodor Mikhailovrich Reshetnikov."    [p. 402]

  [145] Lenin refers to Porphyry (nicknamed Judas) Golovlyov, a sanctimonious, hypocritical landlord serf-owner described in M. Saltykov-Shchedrin's The Golovlyov Family.    [p. 406]

  [146] Vestnik Finansov, Promyshlennosti i Torgovli (Finance, Industry and Trade Messenger ) -- a weekly journal published by the Ministry of Finance in St. Petersburg from November 1883 to 1917 (until January 1885 it was called Ukazatel Pravitelstvennykh Rasporyazheny po Ministerstvu Finansov -- Record of Government Instructions, Ministry of Finance ). It carried government regulations, economic articles, and reviews.    [p. 409]