"A Look at the Secret Society in Russia (1816-1826)"
Excerpts and commentary by SAC editor
[Source = FBF:11-15| Also see RRC2,2#24]
This essay was a reflection on the Decembrist epoch [ID], written in the years after Lunin's arrest and exile to Siberia in connection with his role in the attempt to prevent Nicholas I from coming to the throne and, more fundamentally, he thought, in connection with his affirmation of the rights of citizens, of society, against oppressive and extractive privileges embedded in the fabric of autocratic institutional and public life. It was reprinted and read in later decades of political struggle against the tsarist state and its exclusive and exploitative social-service hierarchies. Lunin emphasized the constitutional principles which inspired the movement, and he compared their implications with that of the English Magna Carta =
*--In general, Lunin continued, the movement sought to dissipate
the almost universal belief that no other order of things was possible, and brought the mass of the people to an awareness of the need to replace subordination to others with obedience to the law. It sought to demonstrate the advantages of mutual responsibility [i.e., mutual surety, as in the traditional village practice of krugovaia poruka (ID)], which makes the cause of each the cause of all; the importance of trial [12/13] by jury in civil and criminal cases, and its essential link with civil liberties; the need for unrestricted publicity, which must not merely be permitted but required as an obligation and secured as a right.
*--"Decembrists" assaulted “the abuse of social distinctions, a source of envy and bitterness dividing
people rather than united them”. Thus they took a stand against both serfdom and
autocracy. They recognized that they lived in a time of vast transformation
calling for “the intervention of men of politics, whatever their social origin”
*--Governments and the people at large must be shaken out of the “stagnation” that has resulted from centuries-old “flawed social structures and prejudices”. Among those called forth in this time of political mobilization, some may be from the upper classes. For them political mobilization is a “duty, a means of repaying the lower classes” for their education and other advantages which the labor of the lower classes afforded
*--These measures were by no means just to the benefit of the laboring masses. They insisted on the recognition, even institutionalization, of the politically mobilized upper classes in their central political leadership. These leaders “become authorities de jure and de facto by virtue of their renovating thought and their moral influence on their fellow citizens"
*--The harmony of Lunin’s thought with that of Saint-Simon becomes crystal clear. The world emerging from the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic era was transformed. It had freed itself of centuries-old medieval tradition. It now required a new leadership, very different from the warrior aristocrats and monarchs of feudal times. Modern times called for a talented, well-educated, politically mobilized elite. The essential difference between this new elite and the old medieval elite was that the new elite would “enrich their country, which they cultivate” rather than “destroy the country they invade”
*--So the Decembrist “sacrifice” of old privilege was in the name of a very modern “high calling”, a validation of their new “authority”  They were not so much sacrificing superannuated privileges as they were cashing them in for something better
*--Lunin saw the practical mechanics of this monumental political struggle with great clarity. Very tangible interests of the public and its leadership clashed with very tangible interests of the Imperial sanovnik elite. High tsarist administrators recognized a direct threat to their “salaries”, power and privilege. Insider tsarist grandees
realized that these constitutional aspirations were a new wine which required new bottles; that the fall of the autocracy would bring with it the loss of their position and oblige them to lay aside their titles and honors, rather like actors after a play has proved a failure. No stone was left unturned in their attempts to deflect this blow 
*--This explains the calumnious attacks on public mobilization which tsarist grandees launched as they sought to demonize political activism. This explains also the viciousness with which they cracked down on hundreds of public activists in the years after the Decembrist uprising [EG]