Report on the Right of Recall at a Meeting of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee
|Written||4 December 1917|
Published here according to the Soldatskaya Pravda text. Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 338-340
November 21 (December 4), 1917
The question of re-election is one of actually implementing the democratic principle. ft is the accepted practice in all leading countries that only the elected are entitled to speak in the language of state legislation. But having allowed the right of summons for the conduct of affairs of state, the bourgeoisie intentionally withheld the right of recall—the right of actual control.
In all revolutionary periods in history, a prominent feature in the struggle for constitutional changes has been the fight for the right of recall.
Democratic representation exists and is accepted under all parliamentary systems, but this right of representation is curtailed by the fact that the people have the right to cast their votes once in every two years, and while it often turns out that their votes have installed those who help to oppress them, they are deprived of the democratic right to put a stop to that by removing these men.
But this democratic right of recall has survived in countries with old democratic traditions, for instance, in some cantons of Switzerland and some states of America.
Any great revolution clearly confronts the people not only with the use of existing statutes but also with the framing of appropriate new statutes. It is necessary, therefore, in view of the impending convocation of the Constituent Assembly, to review the new electoral statutes.
The Soviets have been created by the working people themselves, by their revolutionary energy and initiative, and that is the only guarantee of their working entirely to promote the interests of the masses. The truly popular nature of the Soviets is evident in the fact that every peasant sends his representatives to the Soviet and is also entitled to recall them.
Various parties in this country have been in power. The last time power passed from one party to another there was a revolution, a rather stormy revolution, but if we had had the right of recall, a simple vote would have sufficed.
There is this word freedom. In the old days it meant freedom for the bourgeoisie to manipulate its millions for swindling, freedom to use its forces through such swindling. We have done with the bourgeoisie and that kind of freedom. The state is an institution for coercion. In the old days, it was the coercion of the whole people by a handful of money-bags. We want to turn the state into an institution enforcing the will of the people. We want to institute coercion in the working people’s interests.
Failure to grant the right of recall from the Constituent Assembly is failure to elicit the revolutionary will of the people, it is usurpation of the people’s rights. We do have proportional representation, which is indeed the most democratic. Under this system it may be somewhat difficult to introduce the right of recall but the difficulties entailed are purely technical and are fairly easy to overcome. In any case there is no contradiction between proportional representation and the right of recall.
The people do not cast their votes for individuals but for parties. The party spirit is rather strong in Russia, and as far as the people are concerned each party has a definite political character. That is why any party split must bring confusion unless the right of recall is provided for. The Socialist-Revolutionary Party enjoyed great influence. But a split occurred after the election lists had been put out. The lists cannot be altered, nor can the convocation of the Constituent Assembly be postponed. As a result, the people actually voted for a party which had ceased to exist. This was proved by the Left-wing Second Peasant Congress. It turned out that the peasants were not misled by individuals but by the party split. This state of things needs to be set right. The direct, consistent and immediate democratic principle, namely, the right of recall, must be introduced.
One thing we should be wary of is being faced with an unrepresentative election. Given a high level of mass consciousness—compare the revolutions of 1905 and 1917—there is nothing to fear from introducing the right of re-election.
The people were told that the Soviet is a plenipotentiary organ: they believed it and acted upon that belief. The process of democratisation must be carried forward and the right of recall introduced.
The right of recall should be given to the Soviets, as the best embodiment of the idea of state power, of coercion. The transfer of power from one party to another may then take place peacefully, by mere re-election.