Frightening the People with Bourgeois Terrors

Written May 3 (16), 1917.

The capitalist newspapers, led by Rech, are falling over backwards in their attempt to scare the people with the spectre of “anarchy”. Not a day passes without Rech screaming about anarchy, whipping up rumours and reports of casual and minor breaches of the law, and frightening the people with the spectre of a frightened bourgeoisie.

In the wake of the Rech and of the capitalist papers comes the press of the Narodniks (including the Socialist-Revolutionaries) and the Mensheviks. They, too, have allowed themselves to be frightened. The editorial in today’s Izcestia of the Petrograd Soviet, whose leaders are all members of these parties, shows this paper to have definitely taken sides wit the peddlers of “bourgeois terrors”. It has talked itself into a statement, which , to put it mildly, is grossly exaggerating:

“There is demoralisation in the army. In some places there is disorderly seizure of the land, and destruction and looting of livestock and farm implements. Arbitrary action is on the increase.”

By arbitrary action the Narodniks and Mensheviks, that is, the parties of the petty bourgeoisie, mean, among other things, the seizure by the peasants in the local areas of all the land without waiting for the Constituent Assembly. It was this bogy (“arbitrary action”) that Minister Shingaryov once trotted out in his famous telegram, which was widely featured in the press (see Pravda No. 33).[1]

Arbitrary action, anarchy—what terrifying words! But let any Narodnik or Menshevik who wishes to think for himself consider for a minute the following question.

Before the revolution the land belonged to the landowners. That was not called anarchy. And what did that lead to? It led to a break-down all along the line, to “anarchy” in the fullest sense of the word, i.e., to the utter ruin of the country, the ruin of the majority of the population.

Is a way out of this conceivable other than by the widest application of energy, initiative and determination on the part of the majority of the population? Obviously, it is not.

What does all this add up to?

1. The tsar’s supporters stand for the absolute rule of the landowners in the countryside and for their keeping all the land. They are not afraid of the “anarchy” which this actually entailed.

2. The Cadet Shingaryov, representing all the capitalists and landowners (with the exception of a small group of tsarists), advocates “agricultural conciliation chambers under the rural supply committees for the purpose of effecting voluntary agreements between the tillers of the land and the landowners” (see his telegram). The petty-bourgeois politicians—the Narodniks and Mensheviks—are following in Shingaryov’s footsteps when they advise the peasants “to wait” until the Constituent Assembly meets and when they call the immediate confiscation of the land by the peasants in the local areas “anarchy”.

3. The party of the proletariat (the Bolsheviks) stands for the immediate seizure of the land by the peasants in the local areas and recommends the greatest possible degree of organisation. We see no “anarchy” in this, for it is this decision, and this decision alone, that happens to be a majority decision of the local population.

Since when has a majority decision come to be called “anarchy”? Would it not be more correct to apply this appellation to the minority decision which both the tsarists and Shingaryov are proposing in various forms?

When Shingaryov tries to force the peasants into a “voluntary” “reconciliation” with the landowners, he is imposing a minority decision, because there is an average of 300 peasant families in Russia to every one family of the big landowners. If I tell three hundred families to come to a “voluntary” “agreement” with one family of a rich exploiter, I am offering a decision in favour of the minority, and that means anarchy.

In raising this hullabaloo about “anarchy”, you capitalists are trying to disguise the fact that you stand for the interests of the one against those of the three hundred. This is the crux of the matter.

We may be told: But you want to have the matter decided by the local people alone, without waiting for the Constituent Assembly! And that is anarchy!

To this we reply: And what does Shingaryov want? He, too, wants the matter settled locally (by a “voluntary agreement” between the peasants and the landowners) without waiting for the Constituent Assembly!

On this point Shingaryov and we do not differ—we are both for a final decision by the Constituent Assembly and a preliminary decision—to be enforced—by the local people. We differ with Shingaryov only in saying that 300 shall decide and 1 shall submit, whereas Shingaryov says: if the 300 decide, that will be “arbitrary action”, so let the 300 “agree” with the 1.

How low the Narodniks and Mensheviks must have fallen to help Shingaryov and Co. spread bourgeois terrors.

Fear of the people—that is what these alarmists and panicmongers are actuated by.

There is no reason to fear the people. The decision of the majority of workers and peasants is not anarchy. Such a decision is the only possible guarantee of democracy in general, and of success in the search for effective ways of combating the debacle in particular.

Source: Marxist Internet Archive