Published in Pravda No. 46, May 15 (2), 1917.
Finland’s attitude to Russia has become the topic of the day. The Provisional Government has failed to meet the demand of the Finnish people, which, so far, is not for secession, but only for broad autonomy.
The Provisional Government’s undemocratic, annexationist policy was formulated and “defended” the other day by Rabochaya Gazeta. It could not have made a more “damning” defence than it did. This is indeed a fundamental issue, an issue of state significance, which deserves the closest attention.
“The Organising Committee believes,” writes Rabochaya Gazeta No. 42, “that the general problem of Finnish-Russian relations can and should be settled only by an agreement between the Finnish Diet and the Constituent Assembly. Pending this the Finnish comrades [the Organising Committee has had talks with the Finnish Social-Democrats] should bear in mind that if separate tendencies in Finland were to increase, this would be likely to strengthen the centralist tendencies of the Russian bourgeoisie.”
That is the point of view of the capitalists, the bourgeoisie, the Cadets, but not of the proletariat. The programme of the Social-Democratic Party, namely, 9, which recognises the right of self-determination for all nation members of the state, has been thrown overboard by the Menshevik Social-Democrats. They have, in effect, renounced this programme and taken sides with the bourgeoisie, just as they did on the question of the replacement of the standing army by the universally armed people, and so on.
The capitalists, the bourgeoisie, including the Cadet Party, never did recognise the right of nations to political self-determination, i.e., freedom to secede from Russia.
The Social-Democratic Party recognised this right in § 9 of its programme, adopted in 1903.
When the Organising Committee “recommended” to the Finnish Social-Democrats an ’agreement’ between the Finnish Diet and the Constituent Assembly, they were, on this question, taking sides with the bourgeoisie. One merely has to compare the positions of all the principal classes and parties to see the truth of this.
The tsar, the Rights, the monarchists are not for an agreement between the Diet and the Constituent Assembly—they are for subjecting Finland to the Russian nation. The republican bourgeoisie are for an agreement between the Finnish Diet and the Constituent Assembly. The class-conscious proletariat and the Social-Democrats, true to their programme, are for the right of Finland, as of all the other underprivileged nations, to secede from Russia. We have here a clear, precise, and indisputable picture. Under the guise of an agreement”, which cannot settle anything—for what are you going to do if an agreement is not reached?—the bourgeoisie is pursuing the same old tsarist policy of subjection and annexation.
For Finland was annexed by the Russian tsars as the result of a deal with the suppressor of the French revolution, Napoleon, etc. If we are really against annexations, we should say: give Finland the right of secession! Not until this has been said and accomplished can an “agreement” with Finland be a really free and voluntary agreement, a real agreement, and not just a fake.
Agreement is possible only between equals. If the agreement is to be a real agreement, and not a verbal screen for subjection, both parties to it must enjoy real equality of status, that is to say, both Russia and Finland must have the right to disagree. That is as clear as daylight.
Only by “freedom of secession” can that right be expressed. Only when she is free to secede will Finland really be in a position to enter into an “agreement” with Russia as to whether she should secede or not. Without this condition, without recognising the right of secession, all phrase-mongering about an “agreement” is self-deception and deception of the people.
The Organising Committee should have told the Finns plainly whether it recognises the right of secession or not. It befogged the issue, like the Cadets, and thereby repudiated the right of secession. It should have attacked the Russian bourgeoisie for denying the oppressed nations the right to secede, a denial which is tantamount to annexation. Instead, the Organising Committee attacks the Finns and warns them that “separate” (they should have said separatist) tendencies would strengthen centralist inclinations! In other words, the Organising Committee threatens the Finns with the strengthening of the annexationist Great-Russian bourgeoisie—just what the Cadets have always done, the very guise under which Rodichev and Co. are pursuing their annexationist policy.
We have here a clear and practical commentary on the question of annexations, which “everybody” is now talking about, though afraid to face the issue squarely. To be against the right of secession is to be for annexations.
The tsars pursued a crude policy of annexation, bartering one nation for another by agreement with other monarchs (the partition of Poland, the deal with Napoleon over Fin land, and so on), just like the landowners, who used to ex change peasant serfs. The bourgeoisie, on turning republican, is carrying on the same policy of annexation, only more subtly, less openly, by promising an “agreement” while taking away the only effective guarantee of real equality in the making of an agreement, namely, the right of secession. The Organising Committee is dragging at the tail-end of the bourgeoisie, and in practice taking its side. (Birzhevka was therefore quite right in reprinting all the salient points of the Rabochaya Gazeta article and approving the Organising Committee’s reply to the Finns. which it called a “lesson by Russian democracy” to the Finns. Rabochaya Gazeta deserved this kiss from Birzhevka.)
At its conference, the party of the proletariat (the “Bolsheviks”) once more confirmed the right of secession in its resolution on the national question.
The alignment of classes and parties is clear.
The petty bourgeois are letting themselves be frightened by the spectre of a frightened bourgeoisie—that is the whole crux of the policy of the Menshevik Social-Democrats and the Socialist-Revolutionaries. They are “afraid” of secession.
The class-conscious proletarians are not afraid of It. Both Norway and Sweden gained from Norway’s free secession from Sweden in 1905: it made for mutual trust between the two nations, it drew them closer together on a voluntary basis, it did away with the stupid and destructive friction, it strengthened the economic and political, the cultural and social gravitation of the two nations to each other, and strengthened the fraternal alliance between the workers of the two countries.
Comrades, workers and peasants, do not be influenced by the annexationist policy of the Russian capitalists, Guchkov, Milyukov, and the Provisional Government towards Finland, Kurland, Ukraine, etc.! Do not fear to recognise the right of all these nations to secede! Nations must be won over to the idea of an alliance with the Great Russians not by force, but by a really voluntary and really free agreement, which is impossible without the right of secession.
The freer Russia is, and the more resolutely our republic recognises the right of non-Great-Russian nations to secede, the more strongly will other nations be attracted towards an alliance with us, the less friction will there be, the more rarely will actual secession occur, the shorter the period of secession will last, and the closer and more enduring—in the long run—will the fraternal alliance be between the Russian proletarian and peasant republic and the republics of all other nations.
Source: Marxist Internet Archive