1908-06-08 THE DUMA AND THE NAVY
London Times, 8 June 1908, p. 4: THE DUMA AND THE NAVY (From our own correspondent.) St. Petersburg, June 7. After a remarkable speech from M. Guchkoff against voting money for new battleships and an impassioned appeal from M. Stolypin, the Premier, to vote the money, the Duma unanimously passed a resolution calling for the prior reorganization of the naval services. The debate preceding the vote denotes an astonishing growth in constitutional ideas among the members, even those of the Extreme Right. Several who in the Second Duma were considered enemies of representative government now demand the responsibility of Ministers and are foremost in exalting the Duma’s mission of control. Listening to many of the speeches I was forcibly reminded of the first and second Dumas. The Retch is not paradoxical in saying that the erstwhile reactionaries now deliver “Cadet” speeches. It might add that the “Cadets” have become more moderate. There is, however, a vast difference in that no one can impugn the sincere loyalty of the vast majority of the third Duma, and it is, therefore, very difficult to attach the slightest importance to the gossip about an impending dissolution. If the opinions of the competent observers are of any value, it is not improbable that the Ministry will undergo further changes and, perhaps, of a character less compatible with the present evolution of the Duma. This is explicable by the prevailing tone in upper bureaucratic regions, whence alone the Ministry can be recruited, but this fact will only strengthen the Duma in its opposition and will eventually lead to a reform of the bureaucracy.
The immediate lesson of the naval debate is that the old system of official incompetence and abuses cannot be maintained while the Duma is in existence. M. Guchkoff, speaking before a crowded House and galleries filled with naval officers, among whom was Rear-Admiral Count Heydon, the Tsar’s naval aide-de-camp, said it had been the sad and painful duty of the Duma to reveal the deplorable condition of the navy. Three years ago the Emperor ordered the Minister of Marine to reorganize the service. Practically nothing had been done. If they voted the one million sterling asked for the battleships there was no certainty that reforms would be introduced. If the naval authorities were sincerely desirous of reform, why had nothing been attempted to bring the persons responsible for past offenses to trial? Where was Admiral Alexieff, who a few months before the war reported that the Russian navy in the Far East was invincible? Had he been punished? No, he sat in the Upper House and would shortly vote on the navy estimates and was even spoken of as future Minister of Marine. The House loudly applauded this exordium. He urged the appointment of a special commission to investigate everything connected with the naval administration before and during the war. That would enable the Admiralty to get rid of undesirables.
M. Stolypin, speaking on behalf of the Navy Department, confessed that it was a thankless task to defend it after all that the Duma had heard, but he believed the continuance of the old abuses was impossible since the Duma had taken in hand the patriotic duty of disclosing its defects. He entirely endorsed the Duma’s recommendations, but meanwhile unless four new battleships were voted it would be impossible to form a single squadron out of the vessels saved from the war, and the dockyards would be disorganized through lack of work.
M. Zveginteeff, reporter of the Budget Committee, replied that they had already heard these arguments in committee. They were unconvincing. It would be better to wait a few months rather than give money to the present naval administration for new ships. As for the dockyards, they had more than enough work in hand.
The Duma then passed the committee’s resolution with slight amendments and passed to the details of the navy estimates.
Provided by Stephen McLaughlin