Parties in the Petrograd District Council Elections
|Written||24 May 1917|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pages 506-511.
The lists of candidates for members of the district councils have been published (in a free supplement to Vedomosti Obshehestvennovo Gradonachalstva for May 17). Unfortunately, information is given only for ten districts. Nevertheless, we have a very clear and striking picture of party alignments, a picture that deserves close study on account of its electioneering value and the light it throws on the class ties of the different parties.
Partisanship, as we know, is both a condition for and index of political development. The more politically developed and enlightened the given population or given class is, the higher, as a general rule, is its party organisation. This rule is borne out by the experience of all civilised countries. From the point of view of the class struggle that is obviously how it should be. Non-partisanship or insufficient party crystallisation and party organisation implies at best class instability (at worst, this deficiency signifies deception of the masses by political charlatans a thing that is only too well known in parliamentary countries).
What, then, do the published lists of candidates in Petrograd reveal to us in the matter of party alignments?
Altogether 71 lists have been put forward in 10 districts. The first thing we notice is that they fall into five major groups.
1. The RSDLP—the Bolsheviks. Lists have been put forward in all 10 districts. Our Party has formed a bloc with two other groups—the Inter-District group and the internationalist Mensheviks. This bloc is strictly based on principles and is openly proclaimed in resolutions passed by our Party’s Petrograd and All-Russia conferences. The fundamental issue in contemporary political life both in Russia and the rest of the world is that of the struggle of proletarian internationalism against the chauvinism (or “defencism”) of the big and petty bourgeoisie. Our Party has publicly declared its determination to work for closer relations and unity among all internationalists (see the resolution of the All-Russia Conference on uniting the internationalists against the petty-bourgeois defencist bloc).
The party of the proletariat has taken a clear, open and honest stand on the issues involved in the elections.
2. A no less clear class physiognomy is shown by the party of “people’s freedom”, namely, the Cadets, actually the party of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. They, too, have put forward 10 party lists in all 10 districts. As we know, all the parties of the landowners and capitalists are now supporting the Cadets, but for the time being they do so on the quiet.
3. Third as regards clearly defined party alignment comes the new-fledged Radical-Democratic Party, which has put forward its lists in only 6 out of the 10 districts. This unknown party is obviously another capitalist party which hopes to “pull” the votes of the men in the street by non-committal promises—something in the nature of Cadets in disguise.
4. Fourth comes a group that has put up 17 lists in 9 districts—a motley assortment of Narodniks (Trudoviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries, and Popular Socialists) and Mensheviks with the addition of the notorious Yedinstvo group in varied combinations.
A regular petty-bourgeois hodge-podge and petty-bourgeois lack of principles! Not one of these groups and parties has dared to come out in advance with an open statement of principles in support of their decision to work for closer relations and unity. They have been swept along by events, and are trailing after the chauvinists. They have all fallen into the same mire and are floundering in it like the true philistines they are. They are trying to worm themselves into each district in every way they can. If it can’t be done by hook it will have to be done by crook—that is their motto.
If they are all of one mind on defencism or on supporting the coalition cabinet, then why don’t they join forces to fight the elections in a united, open, political bloc recognising a set of definite principles?
The whole trouble is that the petty bourgeoisie, that is to say, the Narodniks and Mensheviks, lack principles and the spirit of party. They are all defencists and ministerialists. Yet they do not trust one another. In one district the Socialist-Revolutionaries run independently, in another they make common cause with the Popular Socialists and the Trudoviks (with people who approve of compensation for the landowners! With parties whom the S.R.s Vikhlayev, Chernov and Co. in 1906–07 openly accused of worshipping at the shrine of poprietary instincts!). More often than not they make common cause with the Mensheviks, sometimes with Yedinstvo, that very same Yedinstvo of which Dyelo Naroda writes in either a hostile or contemptuous tone.
Never mind! The man in the street will swallow anything! The petty bourgeois does not bother his head about partyism or principles. In the newspaper “we” are against Yedinstvo, but in order to get into the District Councils “we” are for it....
Exactly like the Mensheviks. They too, in their paper, are against Yedinstvo, and at their All-Russia conference they greeted the notorious Deutsch with shouts of disapproval—a fact of which Yedinstvo complained openly. Never mind, the man in the street has a short memory. We shall act in the man-in-the-street way! “In principle” we are against the Deutsches and the Jordanskys, we are ashamed of them in front of the workers, but when it comes to getting a political berth for ourselves we don’t mind running with these gentlemen on the same tickets!
Let all the class-conscious workers know, and let them spread the news about it among the working-class masses, that the bloc of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and all the Narodniks with the Mensheviks is a bloc of people who are trying to sneak in the Yedinstvo heroes, a bloc of people who are ashamed of their allies.
In two districts, Kazansky and Spassky, there are 110 Mensheviks or S.R.s at all. Apparently they have concealed their identity in the lists of the District Soviets, i.e., in the lists of non-party candidates (in each district the number of candidates is incomplete—38 and 28 respectively against 54 and 44 of the Cadet Party and 43 and 46 of our Party). In two districts, therefore, the petty-bourgeois parties found even their motley semi-partyism too much for them, and landed for good and all in the mire of non-partyism—“who cares for parties, the thing is to get elected!” That, always and everywhere, has been the motto of bourgeois parliamentarians.
5. In the fifth group non-partisanship reigns supreme. They have 28 lists in 10 districts, and most of these groups exist in one district only. This is philistinism at its local narrowest. And what a mixed crowd they are! We have here a “House Management”, a “Group of Employees in Educational Institutions”, an “Honesty, Accountancy, and Fairness Group” (believe it or not...) and a group of “Democratic Republicans and Socialist Functionaries Nominated by Non-Party Toilers, Republican Democrats, Working in the House Committees”....
Comrade workers! Let us all get down to work, canvassing all the poorest homes, awakening and enlightening the domestic servants, the most backward workers, etc., etc. Let us campaign against the capitalists and the Cadets, disguised as “Radical Democrats”, who hide behind the Cadets’ backs. Let us campaign against the petty-bourgeois defencist mire of the Narodniks and Mensheviks, against their bloc, which stands for no parties and no principles, against their attempts to sneak into their joint lists the Trudoviks, the advocates of compensation, and the heroes of Plekhanov’s Yedinstvo with whom even such ministerial papers as Dyelo Naroda and Rabochaya Gazeta are ashamed to be seen in the same company!
- See pp. 159–60 and 294 [See Draft Resolution on the Attitude Towards the Parties of the SRs, Mensheviks, “Non-Faction” SDs and others] of this volume.—Ed.