Constitutional Illusions

"A new period is coming in. The victory of the counter revolutionaries is making the people disappointed with the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties and is paving the way for the masses to adopt a policy of support for the revolutionary proletariat."

Constitutional illusions are what we call a political error when people believe in the existence of a normal, juridical, orderly and legalised—in short, “constitutional”—system, although it does not really exist. At first glance it may appear that in Russia today, July 1917, when no constitution has yet been drafted, there can be no question of constitutional illusions arising. But it would be very wrong to think so. In reality, the essential characteristic of the present political situation in Russia is that an extremely large number of people entertain constitutional illusions. It is impossible to understand anything about the political situation in Russia today without appreciating this. Positively no step can be taken towards a correct formulation of our tactical tasks in Russia today unless we above all concentrate on systematically and ruthlessly exposing constitutional illusions, revealing all their roots and re-establishing a proper political perspective.

Let us take three ideas which are most typical of the current constitutional illusions, and look into them carefully.

Idea No. 1 is that our country is about to have a Constituent Assembly; therefore, everything going on now is temporary, transitory, inessential and non-decisive, and every thing will soon be revised and firmly regulated by the Constituent Assembly. Idea No. 2 is that certain parties, such as the Socialist-Revolutionaries or the Mensheviks, or their alliance, command an obvious and undisputed majority among the people or in “the most influential” institutions, such as the Soviets; therefore, the will of these parties and institutions, like the will of the majority of the people in general, cannot be ignored, and even less violated, in republican, democratic and revolutionary Russia. Idea No. 3 is that a certain measure, such as closing down Pravda, was not legalised either by the Provisional Government or by the Soviets; therefore, it was only a passing phase, a chance occurrence, which cannot at all be regarded as something decisive.

Let us look into each of these ideas.