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V. I. Lenin
A NEW COUP D'ÉTAT
Proletary, No. 5
September 30, 1906
Published according to
the Proletary text
From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965
Vol. 11, pp. 207-12.
Translated from the Russian
Edited by Clemens Dutt
Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo,
firstname.lastname@example.org (January 2002)
A NEW COUP D'ÉTAT IN PREPARATION
Guchkov's letter to Trubetskoi long engaged, and to some extent is still engaging, the attention of our political press, if such a term may be applied to the reptile press, and to the few surviving liberal newspapers. This letter really has a certain significance. It marks a big stride in the development of the counter-revolutionary trend among wide sections of the Russian big bourgeoisie. For these sections, the political strike in October was already a decisive turning-point. After October 17 the big bourgeois at once cried: "Enough!" Therefore, a singular and very characteristic feature of the Russian revolution is the fact that the date of the Constitutional Manifesto was used as the name of their party by the elements of the big bourgeoisie who took the side of the tsarist government, which began to adapt the new constitution to the autocratic regime. October is the date of the only partial victory the revolution in Russia has gained so far. Octobrists is the name adopted by the counter-revolutionary party of the big bourgeoisie.
This contradiction clearly reveals the class antagonisms in the Russian revolution. The explanation of it is provided by the Marxist view of the present revolution in Russia. It is a bourgeois revolution. At all events, it is clearing the ground for a wider and more rapid development of capitalism. To regard a full triumph of the revolutionary peasantry in its struggle for land as a victory for the "labour principle", as a transition to "socialisation", is a sheer petty-bourgeois illusion. But the inevitable clearing of the ground for capitalism may proceed along two main lines. Feudal Russia can be transformed into bourgeois Russia if conditions are created that provide the mass of the peasantry and prole-
tariat with the maximum welfare conceivable under capitalism. This transformation is also possible if conditions are created which mainly ensure the interests of the propertied classes, the landlords and capitalists. So far our revolution is following the second line. If it fails to gain another big victory there can be no doubt that the counter-revolutionary bourgeois Octobrists will be the legal executors of the Russian revolution, just as the Junker Bismarck became the legal executor of the half-hearted German Revolution of 1848.
Mr. Guchkov is no simpleton. He is already anticipating the pleasure of taking the reins of government in his hands after the final defeat of the revolution, and of combining business-like, geschäftmacher, bourgeois "liberalism" with ruthless military and police measures of repression against the discontented "lower classes". Like a practical, non-idealistic, bourgeois businessman, Mr. Guchkov has grasped the actual political situation better than many philosophers and phrase-mongers among our bourgeois intelligentsia (l'ignorance est moins eloignée de la verité que le préjugé! -- ignorance is less removed from truth than prejudice). Mr. Guchkov brings the bourgeois ideals of the Cadets down to earth. Especially notable in this connection is the following passage in his letter which has not been appreciated by our slavish press:
"There is no doubt now," writes Guchkov to Trubetskoi, "that the triumph of the revolution, or even a new intensification of the revolutionary crisis, will put an end to our young political liberty and the remnants of our civilisation and prosperity."
This is a remarkably correct and remarkably apt estimation of the present political situation from the point of view of the interests of the capitalist and landlord. Mr. Guchkov takes the bull by the horns. The issue in the present political situation is indeed whether we are in for a new intensification of the revolutionary crisis. We thank you for your candour, Mr. Guchkov! We quite realise that the bourgeois professors and diplomats on Rech dislike your determination, straightforwardness, quickness and aggressiveness, your -- pardon the vulgar expression -- capacity for "dropping bricks", but we socialists are delighted by it. It just suits us.
Thus, anyone who wishes to be serious about the present political situation must first take a clear stand on the question of a new intensification of the revolutionary crisis. That is exactly what Mr. Guchkov is doing. His whole letter says: "I am against it." I subordinate everything to the task of combating this intensification, to the task of suppressing everything that is conducive to it. The reason is clear. A new intensification of the revolutionary crisis contains the threat of the triumph of the revolution, which, in turn, will threaten the "remnants" . . . of the landed estates of Messrs. Guchkov, Romanov, Stolypin and the rest of the gang of pogrom-mongers, the "remnants" of bourgeois privileges which can serve as a protection against the further struggles of the proletariat, in short, the "remnants of our [Guchkov's, Romanov's, Stolypin's] prosperity".
Mr. Guchkov argues correctly, far more correctly and consistently than the Cadets who are now howling against him, who, through their spokesmen, the Vinogradovs, Struves, Izgoyevs, Berdayevs and Milyukovs, have hundreds of times bewailed the impending end of "liberty and civilisation" and the triumph of "spontaneous insanity".
Nor would it harm revolutionaries to take a lesson from the reactionaries in the logical presentation of the question of the present political situation, that is to say, of "a new intensification of the revolutionary crisis". Such an intensification will inevitably imply mass action on a still wider scale than before, enriched with the experience of the great year of the great Russian revolution. And the experience of that year, from the October strike through the December insurrection, the peaceful Duma and its dissolution, leads to an aggressive, all-Russian, armed uprising, with strikes as an auxiliary and subsidiary means of struggle.
The government has shaped its entire policy to meet this universally expected, new intensification of the revolutionary crisis. There is no doubt that it has deliberately refrained from fixing the date for the new Duma elections in order to have its hands free, in order, if the popular struggle becomes very acute, to try to split it up by suddenly appointing the elections. Nor is there any doubt that this is the angle from which it is carefully studying the question whether to summon a new Duma and whether the old electoral
law should remain in force. Social-Democrats have less right than anyone to treat this question lightly.
The government is in a dilemma: Should it try to summon the Duma again on the basis of the existing electoral law, while increasing repression, exercising pressure on the electors and organising Black-Hundred gangs, or should it amend the electoral law before the Second Duma is convened, so as to ensure a Duma "capable of working", i.e., a Black-Hundred Duma? Reaction among the landlord class, the victories of the Black-Hundred landlords in the Zemstvo, the obvious growth of discontent among the people -- all these prompt the government to repeal the present electoral law at once, to limit the franchise in the sense of reverting from the Witte Duma to the Bulygin Duma, if not something worse, or simply to call together the elected representatives of the Zemstvos in the Second Duma. Our reptile press is already dropping hints about some such plans in "higher quarters", i.e., the Court set, and are preparing the ground by arguing that the autocracy has the "right" to promulgate a new electoral law without consulting the Duma.
Let us consider which of these "lines" of government policy is the more probable. Constitutional "legality", political caution and loyalty favour preservation of the electoral law of December 11. As you see, these are all "idealistic" considerations which the Romanovs and Pobedonostsevs are accustomed to despise. Besides, it is ridiculous to think that men covered from head to foot with blood and mud, fighting their last desperate battle to maintain their slaveowners' rights, would be influenced by such considerations. It is ridiculous to think that the tsar and his gang would<"p210"> have any qualms about "legality" when they had no qualms about promulgating the Law of December 11, the Law of February 20, etc., and are not in the least disturbed by the present downright mockery of the "law". No, these arguments are too flimsy.
The opinion of Europe? The need of a loan? This need is very urgent. And European capital will lend money only on the guarantee of "order". What kind of "order", however, is immaterial to capital -- it would even prefer the order that prevails in the graveyard. But a second Cadet Duma (or, which God forbid, a still more radical one!) threatens further
financial disclosures, further "disorder"! No, precisely from the point of view of obtaining a loan in Europe it would pay the government best to annul the present electoral law so as to ensure the election of a Black-Hundred Duma which will sanction any and all loans.
Of course, we must not forget that, actually, profound economic and political causes make an agreement between the autocracy and the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie necessary. The failure of the first attempt to come to terms through the medium of the First Duma is by no means proof, and can not be a proof, that all such attempts will fail -- and very many such attempts will still be made. But an agreement through a Cadet Duma must not now be regarded (and the autocracy cannot regard it) as being very likely.
Revolutionaries learn from the experience of revolution; but so does the autocracy, and very attentively. Everyone can see that there is practically no hope of a Duma more to the right under the present electoral law. The Second Duma is to be summoned at the end of the winter, just when it is usual for starvation, unemployment and want to become particularly acute among the masses. The parties to the left of the Cadets will now undoubtedly be far less disposed than formerly to be guided by the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie; they will be far more capable of undertaking independent, decisive and energetic political action. No! We must harbour no illusions, we must not imagine the enemy to be altogether lacking in brains, perspicacity or discretion. We need have no doubt that after the experience of the Cadet Duma the "heroes of thought and action" in this Black-Hundred government are exerting themselves to the utmost to prevent a repetition of it.
The government has seen that the dissolution of the Duma did not result in an immediate widespread uprising of the whole people. The coup d'état which had been prepared silently and secretly was very much to the liking of the "higher quarters". They have been immensely impressed by what seems to them to have been a bold and successful attack on the revolution. They cannot help contemplating now another attack of the same kind made beforehand, to prevent a "new intensification of the revolutionary crisis". The tsar's courtiers are military men. They fully appreciate the advan-
tage of taking the offensive, of taking the initiative in military operations. Fear an uprising? But it is inevitable, one way or another -- workers' strikes, mutiny in the armed forces and peasant revolts have been proving this for a whole year. A second Cadet Duma would create a situation for an uprising still more favourable for the people: the final bankruptcy of the policy of "military-court liberalism", the fact that the people are sick and tired of the repressions, etc., etc. If a "new intensification of the revolutionary crisis" is inevitable, then we must attack first -- that is what Ignatyev is thinking, what he must be thinking. And he will attack -- on the eve of the elections the tsar will annul the electoral law of December 11 and promulgate a new law which will guarantee a Duma of Black-Hundred elements.
We do not claim to be prophets able to foresee all the possible outcomes of the present highly complicated political situation. Social-Democrats, however, must carefully weigh up the trends of all the forces that are operating in politics in order wisely to decide their own tactics. If they do that they will arrive at the following inexorable conclusion: Workers! Be prepared for the promulgation by the government of a Black-Hundred electoral law by the time of the elections! Peasants! Beware, the government is planning to change the electoral system so that peasant deputies, Trudoviks, cannot be elected to the Duma!
We must not let the government catch us unawares. We must conduct the most vigorous agitation among the masses to explain the danger that is threatening -- we must shatter their naïve faith in the permanence of the electoral law as a "constitutional" institution -- we must destroy constitutional illusions -- we must recall the examples of the European revolutions with their frequent alterations of the electoral laws -- we must spare no effort to spread the conviction that the crisis now maturing is not a parliamentary or constitutional crisis, but a revolutionary crisis, which force alone will decide, and which only a victorious armed uprising will resolve.
<"en107"> This refers to A. I. Guchkov's letter, "Reply to Count Y. N. Trubetskoi", published in the newspaper Russkiye Vedomosti, No. 224, on September 10 (23), 1906.
On August 24 (September 6), 1906, the tsarist government published a statement on the establishment of military courts and openly proclaimed its programme to be the abolition of all concessions won through the revolutionary upsurge in October-December 1905. In an interview in Novoye Vremya the leader of the Octobrists, Guchkov, approved both the establishment of military courts and the entire counter-revolutionary programme of the government. Guchkov's unreserved agreement with the government's policy caused dissatisfaction among some representatives of the bourgeoisie. In particular, Count Trubetskoi, one of the organisers of the Party of "Peaceful Renovation" wrote a letter to Guchkov asking him whether he belonged to the party of "peaceful" or "military" renovation. Guchkov's letter in reply, to which Lenin refers, fully confirmed his agreement with the government's policy and approved the dissolution of the First State Duma. [p. 207]
<"en108"> "Reptiles " was the name given to the venal press organs in the pay of the tsarist government and grovelling before it. [p. 207]
<"en109"> On February 20 (March 5), 1906 a law and two ukases to the Senate on the State Duma and Council of State were published. By this law the tsarist government virtually annulled its Manifesto of October 17.
According to the new law the Council of State, half of which was appointed by the supreme power and the other half elected from Black-Hundred sections of the nobility, big capitalists and clergy, was converted from a consultative into a legislative body. The Council of State could veto any decision of the Duma. [p. 210]