The Happening to the
King of Portugal
Proletary, No. 22, (March 3) February 19, 1908.
Lenin Collected Works, Volume 13, pages 470-474.
The bourgeois press, even of the most liberal and “democratic” trend, needs must point a Black-Hundred moral when discussing the assassination of the Portuguese adventurer.
Take, for example, the special correspondent of one of Europe’s best bourgeois-democratic newspapers—the Frankfurter Zeitung. He begins his story with a semi-humorous account of the way the flock of correspondents, as if descending on their prey, made a rush for Lisbon as soon as the sensational news was received. “I shared a sleeping compartment with a well-known London journalist,” writes this gentleman, “who began to boast of his experience. He had already been to Belgrade on the same errand and could consider himself ‘a special correspondent for cases of regicide’."
Indeed, the happening to the king of Portugal is a truly “occupational accident” of kings.
Small wonder that we have professional correspondents specialising in the description of their Majesties’ professional “misadventures”.
But however strong the element of cheap and vulgar sensationalism is with such correspondents, the truth has a way of asserting itself. “A merchant residing in the busiest shopping district” told the Frankfurter Zeitung correspondent the following: “As soon as I learned what had happened I hung out a mourning flag. But very soon customers and acquaintances started coming in and asking whether I had gone out of my mind and was determined to ruin my custom. Do you mean to say that no one has any feeling of compassion, I asked. My dear sir, you wouldn’t believe what kind of answers I received! And so I removed the mourning flag.”
Commenting on this, the liberal correspondent writes:
“A people as innately good-natured and friendly as the Portuguese are, must have gone through a harsh school to learn to hate so implacably even in the grave. And if this is true—as it undoubtedly is, and by keeping silent about it I would be distorting historical truth— if not only such mute demonstrations pronounce judgement on the crowned victim, if at every turn you hear words of abuse, even from ‘law-abiding people’, levelled at the victim of assassination, you naturally find yourself wanting to study the rare combination of circumstances which has made the psychology of a people so abnormal. For a people which does not concede to death its ancient and sacred right of atoning for all earthly sins, must be either morally degenerate already, or there must exist conditions engendering an unfathomable feeling of hatred, which clouds the clear eye of fair judgement.”
O, liberal hypocrites! Why do you not brand as moral degenerates those French scholars and writers, who even to this day hate and virulently abuse not only the leading personalities of the 1871 Commune but even t.hose of 1793? Not only the fighters of the proletarian revolution, but even those of the bourgeois revolution? Because the “democratic” lackeys of the modern bourgeoisie regard it as “normal” and “moral” that the people should “good-naturedly” endure every possible indignity, outrage, and atrocity at the hands of crowned adventurers.
Otherwise, continues the correspondent (i.e., other wise than as a result of exceptional conditions), “one could not understand the fact that already today one monarchist newspaper speaks about innocent victims from among the people with almost greater sorrow than it does about the king, and we already see quite clearly how legends are be ginning to form that will invest the assassins with a halo of glory. Whereas in almost all cases of assassination the political parties hasten to dissociate themselves from the assassins, the Portuguese Republicans are frankly proud of the fact that the ‘martyrs and heroes of February 1st’ came from their ranks...”.
The bourgeois democrat, in his excessive zeal, goes to the length of being ready to describe as a “revolutionary legend” the respect which Portuguese citizens pay to the men who sacrificed themselves in order to remove a king who had made a mockery of the constitution!
The correspondent of another bourgeois newspaper, the Milan Corriere della Sera, reports the severe censorship imposed in Portugal after the assassination. Telegrams are not passed. Ministers and kings are not characterised by that “good nature” which appeals so strongly to the honest bourgeois in the case of the mass of the people! In war, as in war—rightly argue the Portuguese adventurers who have taken the place of the assassinated king. Communication has become almost as difficult as in war. Reports have to be sent by a roundabout route, first by post to Paris (perhaps to some private address), and thence transmitted to Milan. “Not, even in Russia,” writes the correspondent on February 7, “during the most violent revolutionary periods, did the censorship clamp down so hard as it now does in Portugal.”
“Some Republican newspapers,” this correspondent reports on February 9 (New Style), “write today [the day of the king’s funeral] in terms which I positively dare not repeat in a telegram.” In a report dated February 8, which arrived after that of the 9th, the comment of the newspaper Pays on the funeral arrangements is quoted:
“The mortal remains of two monarchs were borne past—the use less ashes of a wrecked monarchy, which had been sustained by treachery and privileges, and whose crimes have smirched two centuries of our history.”
“This is a Republican newspaper, of course,” the correspondent adds, “but is not the appearance of an article thus worded on the day of the king’s funeral an eloquent fact?”
For our part, we will merely add that we regret one thing— that the Republican movement in Portugal did not settle accounts with all the adventurers in a sufficiently resolute and open manner. We regret that in the happening to the king of Portugal there is still clearly visible the element of conspiratorial, i.e., impotent, terror, one that essentially fails to achieve its purpose and falls short of that genuine, popular, truly regenerative terror for which the Great French Revolution became famous. Possibly the republican movement in Portugal will mount still higher. The sympathy of the socialist proletariat will always he on the side of the Republicans against the monarchy. But what they have succeeded in doing so far in Portugal is only to frighten the monarchy by the assassination of two monarchs, but not to destroy it.
The socialists in all European parliaments have expressed, to the best of their ability, their sympathy with the Portuguese people and the Portuguese Republicans, their loathing for the ruling classes, whose spokesmen condemned the assassination of the adventurer and expressed their sympathy towards his successors. Some socialists openly declared their views in parliament, others walked out during the expressions of sympathy towards the “sufferer”—the monarchy. Vandervelde in the Belgian parliament chose a “middle” way—the worst way—by squeezing out of himself a phrase to the effect that he honoured “all the dead”, meaning both the king and those who had killed him. We trust that Vandervelde will be a solitary exception among the socialists of the world.
Republican tradition has weakened considerably among the socialists of Europe. This is understandable and to some extent justifiable, inasmuch as the imminence of the socialist revolution diminishes the practical importance of the struggle for a bourgeois republic. Often, however, the slackening of republican propaganda signifies, not vigour in the striving for the complete victory of the proletariat, but a weak consciousness of the proletariat’s revolutionary aims in general. Not without reason did Engels, in criticising the Erfurt Draft Programme in 1891, impress upon the German workers with the greatest possible emphasis the importance of the struggle for a republic, and the possibility of such a struggle becoming the order of the day in Germany as well.
With us in Russia the struggle for a republic is a matter of immediate practical significance. Only the most contemptible petty-bourgeois opportunists like the Popular Socialists or the “S. D.” Malishevsky (see Proletary, No. 7, in regard to him) could draw from the experience of the Russian revolution the conclusion that in Russia the struggle for the republic is relegated to the background. On the contrary, the experience of our revolution has proved that the struggle for the abolition of the monarchy is inseparably bound up in Russia with the peasants’ struggle for the land, with the whole people’s struggle for freedom. The experience of our counter-revolution has shown that a struggle for freedom which does not affect the monarchy is no struggle at all, but petty-bourgeois cowardice and flabbiness or down right deception of the people by the careerists of bourgeois parliamentarism.
 See Friedrich Engels, Zur Kritik des sozial-demokratischen Programmentwurfes von 1891, Die Neue Zeit, Jg. XX, 1901, B. II, H. 1.