Prosveshcheniye, No. 1, December 1911.
Published according to the Prosveshcheniye text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, , Moscow, Volume 17, pages 424-432.
Translated: Dora Cox
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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Those who, six or five and a half years ago, sounded the alarm about the negotiations which the Constitutional-Democrats were, in general, conducting with Cabinet ministers, especially on the subject of ministerial portfolios, cannot help entertaining a feeling of profound satisfaction today. Historical truth is bound to out—it is sometimes divulged in quarters from which truth is least expected. The first revelations have now been made, and, despite all the efforts of “interested” persons (and parties) to hush them up, they will not end here. It may be said with absolute certainty that these exposures will fully corroborate the accusations we levelled against the Cadets at that time.
Witte started them in his controversy with Guchkov. Witte’s object and the nature of his revelations are of the basest; it is an intrigue of the worst kind, a desire to trip somebody up, a bid for a portfolio. But it is a well-known fact that when two thieves fall out honest men always come into their own; and when three thieves have fallen out, the gain is likely to be the greater.
What matters most in Witte’s letter is that willy-nilly he had to establish certain facts—thus providing an opportunity (and making it indispensable) to verify these facts by questioning all those involved in the affair. The basic facts to be gleaned from Witte’s letter are the following:
(1) The conference called by Witte was attended by Shipov, Guchkov, Urusov, Y. Trubetskoi, and M. Stakhovich, that is to say, leading figures of the Cadet, Peaceful Renovation, and Octobrist parties.
(2) “At the first session of the conference between Count Witte [we are quoting his letter I and the above-mentioned prominent persons, agreement in principle was reached on all the main questions, except the question of the appointment of the Minister of the Interior.”
(3) “Count Witte insisted on Durnovo’s appointment, while the prominent persons, with the exception of Prince Urusov, were opposed to it. As for Prince Urusov, he tried to persuade his colleagues at the conference to agree to Durnovo’s appointment in view of the gravity of the situation and the impossibility of delaying the matter, and, for his own part, he declared that, in order to set an example, he was prepared to accept the post of Vice-Minister under Durnovo.... At the next session Shipov, Guchkov, and Prince Trubetskoi declared that they could not join a Cabinet that would include Durnovo....”
(4) Stolypin’s candidature was mentioned, but it failed to receive unanimous approval. Some were in favour, others were opposed to it.
What amendments has Guchkov introduced to this statement of the facts? He has confirmed that “Durnovo’s candidature had the warm Support of Prince Urusov, subsequently a member of the First Duma.” Witte, according to Guchkov, hesitated, and there was a moment when he was prepared to give up Durnovo because it was known that the press was about to come out with revelations and bitter articles against him. “The whole incident,” adds Guchkov, “took place immediately after the Manifesto of October 17, when there reigned the fullest, the most unbridled, I should say, freedom of the press.”
The negotiations were prolonged. Guchkov writes of “wearisome days of protracted negotiations”. In respect of Stolypin, he says that “nobody expressed the unfavourable opinion mentioned by Cound Witte. In describing the general situation obtaining at that time, Guchkov says: “Many ‘saviours’ of the country have now appeared on the scene.... But where were they in those days? ... At that time many of them had not yet made up their minds on which side of the barricades they were going to stand”.
Those are the essential points in Witte’s and Guchkov’s revelations. The minor details we naturally leave out of consideration. The historical truth is now quite definitely established: (1) At that extremely grave moment in the history of Russia there were no serious differences of opinion between the Cadets and the Octobrists; (2) “At that time many [of the bourgeois leaders and, as Guchkov “subtly” hints, perhaps even of the ministers] had not yet made up their minds on which side of the barricades they were going to stand”. But the fact is that those who attended the conference, and did so more than once, were men who all stood on one definite “side of the barricades”. During those conferences the ministers, and the Octobrists, and the Cadets all stood on the same side of the barricade. Historical truth permits of no doubt or misinterpretation: these were conferences at which the government conducted negotiations with the counter-revolutionary, liberal bourgeoisie.
Now look at the behaviour of the Cadets. Ever since the publication of Witte’s and Guchkov’s revelations (their letters were printed in St. Petersburg on September 26, and in Moscow on September 27, Old Style), the Cadets have been maintaining complete silence about their part in the affair, confining themselves to attempts to “twit” Guchkov. That is exactly what Rech did in its issue of September 28, and Russkiye Vedomosti in its issue of the same date, where they “twitted” Guchkov with having subsequently joined Durnovo’s colleagues, but they have never printed any corrections or denials that affect the historical facts. The third thief hopes that, thanks to the controversy between Witte and Guchkov, he will go unnoticed!
Then the Octobrists begin to “revenge” themselves on both Witte and the Cadets. On October 14 (after two weeks of reconnoitring by the Octobrists and of cowardly and mean silence on the part of the Cadets) Golos Moskvy carried a “statement of facts” headed “Count Witte and P. N. Durnovo in Alliance with the Cadets”. The new revelations bring out the following points: (1) Prince Trubetskoi was a member of the Constitutional-Democratic Party at the time. (2) “Since he did not want to create any misconceptions in Count Witte’s mind, Prince Trubetskoi considered it his duty to warn him that he, Prince Trubetskoi, would inform the bureau of his party, which met every day in Professor Petrazhitsky’s apartment to discuss current affairs, about all of Witte’s negotiations with men prominent in public life” (it is obvious that neither the Octobrists nor the Cadets regard the worker and peasant democrats as “prominent in public life”; apparently, in October 1905 the workers and peasants were outside “public life”!). (3) Mr. Petrunkevich was particularly vehement in his objections to Stolypin’s candidature. He said that, “if the worst came to the worst [sic!], it was necessary to advise Count Witte to appoint Durnovo, rather than Stolypin, to the post of Minister of the Interior. The other leaders of the Constitutional-Democratic Party fully shared Petrunkevich’s opinion, and Prince Trubetskoi was instructed to convey to Count Witte the opinion of the prominent public men who met in Petrazhitsky’s apartment”. The next morning Trubetskoi visited Count Witte and conveyed to him the exact opinion of the bureau of the Constitutional-Democratic Party about both candidates.
Has Trubetskoi corroborated the reference to his part in the affair? He fully corroborated it when he told both the correspondent of Novoye Vremya (see issue of October 15) and the correspondent of Rech (see issue of October 19) that the information printed in Golos Moskvy was “quite exact”. “The word ‘bureau’,” said Trubetskoi, “is perhaps out of place, it would have been more correct to say ‘leaders of the Party’” (meaning the Cadets). Trubetskoi made another, just as immaterial, “correction”, stating that he had visit ed Witte “not the next morning, perhaps, but two or three days later”. Finally, in the interview he gave to the Rech correspondent, Trubetskoi said:
“Exception must be taken to one statement made by Guchkov. He says that the prominent people refused to join the Cabinet only because of Durnovo. That is not quite so [not quite so! I as far as I am concerned and, if I am not mistaken, the same applies to Shipov and I expressed our willingness to join the Cabinet, but on condition that its programme was drafted beforehand. Witte, however, tried to persuade us to join the Cabinet without insisting on that condition. That was the difference between us and Guchkov, who, as far as I can remember, stipulated no such condition.” Trubetskoi is very cautious in his choice of expressions on this point: “not quite so”, “as far as I can remember”!
Mr. Petrunkevich deals with the subject in Rech of October 19—three weeks after the first revelations were published! Now, see how he does it.
He begins with a long-winded argument (27 lines) about the inadvisability of relying on people’s memories, and points out that Shipov was the only one who kept a diary.
What is the purport of this argument? Do you want to have the truth published, at once and in full? Then nothing could be easier than to name all those who took part in the conferences and to question them about it. If, however, you do not want to have the truth about your own party published, then do not play at hide-and-seek and do not refer to Shipov.
Then follow 27 lines of argument about the propensity of the Octobrists for “canards”. But what is the point of this argument, once Golos Moskvy mentioned the person who corroborated its information? Mr. Petrunkevich is obviously at pains to obscure a plain and clear question by heaping up literary and diplomatic rubbish around it. That is a dishonest method.
Further follow 20 lines of jibes at Trubetskoi: that he indulges in “personal reminiscences”—as though reminiscences could be anything but personal!—and that the Prince “never mentioned the matter to anyone”—the emphasis being Petrunkevich’s, who obviously intends this as a rebuke for Trubetskoi’s indiscretion. Instead of giving a plain answer to the question, the Cadets have begun to rebuke one another for being indiscreet. What can this kind of method mean, except that the Cadets are chagrined by the revelations? It betrays their efforts to husk up the matter (what they say, in effect, is: don’t be indiscreet in the future, Prince).
The 74 lines of introduction are followed, at last, by the denial proper on the following points: (1) The bureau of the Constitutional-Democratic Party was in Moscow and, therefore, could not meet in Petrazhitsky’s apartment. (2) “At that time” Petrazhitsky “was not one of the group of persons who directed the affairs of the Party”. (3) “The few members I of the bureau of the Constitutional-Democratic Party I who were living in St. Petersburg were not authorised to enter into any negotiations, and still less alliances, with Count Witte, Mr. Durnovo, or any other persons.” (4) “Personally, I [Petrunkevich] visited Petrazhitsky once [Mr. Petrunkevich’s emphasis], and it is true that on that one occasion there was some talk about the possibility of Prince Trubetskoi being offered the post of Minister of Education, and all those present expressed their conviction that the Prince could accept the offer only on condition that the entire Cabinet adopted a clear and definite programme fully conforming to the conditions of the political situation. Moreover, the Cabinet was to be one that could command the confidence of ‘society’ [bear in mind what all the disputants mean by the word “society”: the workers and peasants are not “society”]. It is quite possible that at the same time the personal and political qualities of the various candidates, among them Durnovo and Stolypin, were discussed. But neither my memory, nor the memory of others whom I consulted on the subject, has retained any recollection of a warm speech which, presumably, convinced all those present.”
That is all there is to the relevant part of Mr. Petrunkevich’s “denial”, to which he adds a further 48 lines of jibes at Trubetskoi, to the effect that the latter’s memory has failed him, that the Constitutional-Democratic Party concluded no alliance with Durnovo and that it “prevented one of its members, Prince Trubetskoi, from joining a Cabinet Which the Party could not support”.
Trubetskoi’s and Petrunkevich’s letters in the Rech of October 27 add nothing new. The former insists that it was no other than Petrunkevich who “advised that Durnovo be preferred to Stolypin”. Petrunkevich denies this.
Now, what does this all boil down to?
Mr. Petrunkevich declares that the few members of the bureau who were living in St. Petersburg were not authorised to enter into any negotiations, but he cannot help confirming the fact that negotiations were conducted! He himself states (Rech, October 27): “At the conference in Petrazhitsky’s apartment we discussed Prince Trubetskoi’s candidature”.
This then means that negotiations were conducted. If, as Mr. Petrunkevich says, the Party “prevented” Prince Trubetskoi, this means that the negotiations were conducted on behalf of the Party!
Mr. Petrunkevich has an amazing knack of contradicting himself. There were no negotiations, but ... but there was “a conference on the candidature”. The bureau of the Party held no meetings, but ... but the Party took a decision. Such pitiful evasions are characteristic of people who are trying in vain to conceal something. What, indeed, could be simpler than to name all those who took part in the conference, or to cite the exact decision of the “bureau”, or of the Party, or of the leaders, or to set forth the allegedly clear and allegedly definite programme which (allegedly) the Cadets demanded of Witte’s Cabinet? But the trouble with our liberals is that they cannot afford to tell the truth, they are afraid of it, the truth is their ruin.
And so they resort to petty and shabby subterfuges, equivocations and evasions, the purpose of which is to prevent the reader (at least the inattentive one) from getting a clear idea of a historical question of great importance, namely, the question of the attitude of the liberals to the government in October 1905.
Why is the truth the ruin of the Cadets? Because the fact that negotiations were conducted, and the circumstances and conditions under which they were conducted, explode the fable that the Cadets are democrats and prove the counter-revolutionary nature of their liberalism.
Could a really democratic party even think of entering into negotiations with a man like Witte at a time like October 1905? Certainly not; for such negotiations necessarily implied that both parties stood, to a certain extent, on common ground, namely the common ground of counter-revolutionary aspirations, sentiments, and proclivities. There was nothing to negotiate with Witte, except ways and means of putting an end to the democratic mass movement.
Further, assuming for a moment that the Cadets, in entering into negotiations, did have some democratic purposes in mind, could a democratic party have failed to inform the people of those negotiations when they were broken off? It could not. This is exactly where we see the difference between counter-revolutionary liberalism and democracy, undeserving of the epithet counter-revolutionary. The liberal desires an extension of liberty, but in such a way as not to lend strength to democracy; he wants the negotiations and the rapprochement with the old government to continue, to gain in force, to be put on a firm basis. That is why the liberal could not afford to inform the public of the negotiations after they had been broken off, for that would have made it difficult to resume the negotiations, he would there by “have shown his hand” to democracy and broken with the authorities—but that is precisely something a liberal cannot bring himself to do. A democrat, on the other hand, who happened to be in the position of someone conducting negotiations with Witte and who saw the hopelessness of the negotiations, would immediately make them public, and thereby put the Wittes to shame, expose their game, and bring about a further advance of the democratic movement.
Consider also the question of the programme of the Cabinet and of its composition. All those involved in the affair speak of the latter and say quite clearly and explicitly, such and such portfolios were offered to such and such individuals. But not a single clear and explicit word is said about the former, i.e., about the programme! Both Trubetskoi and Petrunkevich remember the candidates for portfolios perfectly well, and name them. But none of them says anything about what the “programme” was! Is it just an accident? Of course not. It results from (and is also positive proof of) the “programmes” having been the last thing the liberal gentlemen thought of, simply meaningless window-dressing, hollow “literature”—actually, Witte could have had no other programme than that of strengthening the government and weakening the democratic movement, and no matter what assurances he gave, and what promises and statements he made, that would be the only policy he would have pursued. The “vital” business that they were primarily concerned with was that of the distribution of portfolios. For this reason only, Witte, for instance, could forget all about the programme (according to Witte, there was even complete agreement on principles!), but the controversy over the question as to who was better (or worse?), Durnovo or Stolypin, that is something they all re member, of which they all talk, and in connection with which they all refer to the speeches and arguments made by one person or another.
Murder will out. Even in the deliberately touched up stories of three or four persons the historical truth stands out in fairly bold relief.
Immediately after October 17, the entire liberal bourgeoisie of Russia—from Guchkov to Milyukov, who is undoubtedly politically responsible for Trubetskoi—turned away from democracy and drew closer to Witte. Nor was this an accident or the treachery of individuals—it was the class that went over to the counter-revolutionary position that corresponds to its economic interests. Only when they had assumed that position could the Cadets conduct negotiations with Witte through Trubetskoi in 1905, with Trepov through Muromtsev in 1906, etc. Unless we understand the distinction between counter-revolutionary liberalism and democracy, we cannot understand anything either about the history of the latter or about its tasks.
 See the excellent explanation of this common ground, on the basis of articles written by Mr. Milyukov himself (A Year of Struggle), in Y. K.’s article, “From the History of Russian Liberalism”, in the almanac Summer Lightnings, St. Petersburg, 1907. “Count Witte’s resignation means the loss of the last opportunity to come to terms,” wrote Mr. Milyukov on April 18, 1906, thus admitting quite clearly and definitely that there had been negotiations for deals and that there had been opportunities, that there was some sense in repeating the attempts to negotiate a deal. —Lenin