On the Separation of Liberalism from Democracy: Lenin 1913

Lenin, below writing a year before the start of First World War. During the build up toward the war  most liberal and nominally socialist organizations supported their national governments rather than call for resistance to the war and solidarity of the international working class.

Lenin stood on the principle that only a movement of the oppressed based in the working class was able to fight for meaningful democracy as the aspirations of middle class liberals were inextricably bound to the interests of the ruling bourgeois class and the then absolutist rule of the monarch, ‘Tzar’ who was overthrown by mass revolution in 1917, 4 years after the composition of this article. The emancipation of which he spoke was that from the yoke of Tzarism.

The ‘Cadets’ to whom he refers in the full article were a centrist liberal party but one who, as with the Democratic Party in the US, the Labor party in Great Britain, and the Socialists in France as well as many other liberal and nominally socialist parties today supported the imperial designs and class interests of capital.

Text linked to complete article.

The separation of liberalism from democracy in Russia is one of the basic questions of the entire emancipation movement. What is the cause of the movement’s weakness? Is it because democracy has been insufficiently aware and definite in separating from liberalism and has allowed itself to become infected by liberalism’s importance and wavering? Or is it because democracy separated from liberalism too soon (or too sharply, etc.) and thus weakened the “force of the common onslaught”? There can scarcely be anybody interested in the cause of freedom who will argue that this is not a question of fundamental importance. One cannot be a conscious champion of freedom without giving a definite answer to this question. To settle it one must understand which social forces, which classes support liberalism, and which support democracy, and what political strivings have their roots in the nature of these classes.


“Russian democracy cannot make a serious advance if it does not recognize the deep-going class roots that separate liberalism from democracy, if it does not spread the consciousness of this among the masses, if it does not learn to neutralize in this way the waverings of the liberals and their betrayals of the cause of “people’s freedom”. Without this all talk of the successes of the emancipation movement is meaningless.”

The Separation of Liberalism from Democracy

Published: Severnaya Pravda August 11, 1913. Signed: V. I.. Published according to the Severnaya Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 302-304.
Translated: The Late George Hanna
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

About rawlinsview

News and political commentary from the point of view of the social interests of the international working class.
This entry was posted in Lenin, political rights of the US working class, Revolutionary Tactics and Strategy, Social Democracy, Soviet/Bolshevik history and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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