role and significance of strong parties. It was the Russian revolution which in its very first period demonstrated that it was possible even under the Plehve regime to create a party that was really capable of leading classes. In the spring of 1905 our Party was a league of underground circles; in the autumn it became the party of the millions of the proletariat. Did this happen "all at once", gentlemen, or did it take ten years of slow, steady, unobtrusive and quiet work to prepare and ensure such a result? And if at such a moment as the present one, the official and unofficial S.R. gentlemen are putting regicide to the fore and not the task of setting up a party organisation among the peasant masses capable of hammering out something more solid, more ideologically consistent, something more firm and staunch, out of the jelly-like revolutionism of the Trudovik current of opinion, we shall say that Narodnik socialism in Russia is dying, that it has long since died, that its leaders are dimly aware of their "bankruptcy" as Narodniks after the very first campaign of a people's revolution.
We did not expect that peasants would display capacity for a leading role, or even an independent role, in the revolution; and we shall not lose heart at the failure of the first campaign, which revealed the vast extent to which revolutionary-democratic ideas had spread among the peasantry, even though these ideas were extremely hazy and sloppy. And we will be able to work again as consistently and stubbornly as we did before the revolution in order that the Party tradition should not be broken, in order that the Party should grow stronger and be able in the second campaign to lead, not two or three million proletarians, but five times or ten times as many. You don't believe in this task? You find it dull? Well, the door is open, worthy friends; you are not revolutionaries, you are simply ranters!
And your official organ treats the question of taking part in the Third Duma in the same hysterical way.* In Znamya Truda, No. 10-11, one such hysterical writer sneers at the mistakes of our Social-Democratic deputies in the Third Duma, and exclaims about their statements: "Who knows anything about these statements, about these votings and abstentions?" (p. 11).
We say to this: "Yes, our Social-Democratic deputies in the Third Duma have made many mistakes. And this very example the S.R.s chose to quote demonstrates the difference in the attitude of a workers' party and a group of intellectuals. A workers' party understands that in a period of political lull and collapse the latter must inevitably show itself in the Duma group too, since in the Third Duma it was even less capable than in the Second of assembling large party
* For a detailed analysis of S.R. boycottism, see the article on "Parliamentary Cretinism Inside Out" in Proletary, No. 18. In the autumn of 1907, seemingly appealing to a genuinely revolutionary boycottist tradition, the S.R.s were already in practice degrading this tradition, cancelling it out, replacing the revolutionary boycott-assault by pitiful and impotent "refusal to participate". They were already assuring a credulous public then that to "turn one's back" on the reactionary Duma meant inflicting "a big moral" defeat on the government, and taking "the first serious step to changing the general political picture".
Then, too, we already exposed the true character of these "revolutionary rhetorics . . . of gentry who do not scruple to muddle the beads of the masses for the sake of naïve self-advertisement of their party".
forces. Therefore the workers' party criticises and corrects the mistakes of its deputies. Every organisation, by discussing each speech and arriving at the conclusion that such-and-such a statement or speech was a mistake, provides material for political action by the masses. Don't worry, gentlemen of the S.R. Party: at the moment when the political crisis becomes acute, our group -- and in any case members of our Duma group -- will know how to do their duty. And our criticism of their mistakes is done publicly, and openly, before the masses. Our deputies learn from this criticism, the classes learn, the Party learns -- the Party which has seen hard times, and knows that it is not by ranting but only by the stubborn and steadfast work of all organisations is it possible to emerge with honour from a difficult situation. Even Proletary, which, as a newspaper published abroad, realised that it was under an obligation to give its advice from afar with care, openly proposed measures for improving the work of the group. Our open Party criticism, added to the work of the group, achieves the result that the masses know both the Duma statements and the nature of the Party's corrections to them. And failure to appreciate the Duma word at a time when Party organisations and the Party press are facing the effects of the deep collapse, is a sign of boundless intellectualist irresponsibility.
The S.R.s don't understand the importance of open socialist speeches which are frankly criticised and corrected in the Party press. The S.R.s prefer to hush up the mistakes of their representatives: one more reminder of this was in No. 10-11 of Znamya Truda, when it abused us for making "philistine" statements about Gershuni's love of the Cadets. We long ago expressed our opinion on this question,* and would not start repeating it now, so soon after the death by torture at the hands of the tsar's executioners of a man who earned deep respect by his loyalty to a revolutionary organisation. But since the S.R.s have raised the question, we shall give our reply. You can answer us in no way except by abuse, gentlemen; you cannot say, frankly and openly, which of you approves or does not approve of Gershuni's
* See present edition, Vol. 13, pp. 153-60. --Ed. [Transcriber's Note: See Lenin's "But Who Are the Judges?". -- DJR]
stand at the February (1907) Congress of the S.R. Party. You cannot reply on the substance of the matter and show up the mistakes of your leaders, the number of their supporters, etc., because you do not have a party, you attach no value to educating the masses by open criticism of persons, statements, tendencies and shades of opinion.
The working class will know how to train up and harden its organisations by open criticism of its representatives. Not all at once, not without friction, not without struggle and not without hard work -- but we shall solve the difficult problem which the difficult turn of events has confronted us with, namely, to combine open speeches in the Duma with illegal Party activity. In the working out of this problem will be revealed the maturity of a party which has gone through the first campaign of the revolution. And the working out of this problem will provide a guarantee that in the second campaign the proletariat will be able, under the leadership of Social-Democracy, to fight more ably and more unitedly, and to gain more decisive victories.