The Parties in the Duma and the People
|Written||6 July 1906|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 101-104.
Yesterday’s debate in the Duma on the appeal to the people provides extremely valuable material for the political education of the broad masses.
The question of appealing to the people proved to be such a vital one that the intrinsic nature of the different political parties was revealed with a clarity that left nothing to be desired. On this question the Duma found itself as if in a vice between the reactionary autocracy (“the government’s communication”) and the revolutionary people, whose struggle outside the Duma forced itself, one might say, through every chink and crevice of the Taurida Palace. From the moment it opened, the debate irresistibly swung over from formalities and details to the very core of the question.
Why appeal to the people? This is the question that eminently confronted the Duma. It coloured the whole debate. It raised the whole debate to the plane on which we formulated the question in yesterday’s leading article, i.e., the issue became: To reply to the fighting statement of the Cabinet with a lighting statement of the Duma? To make no reply at all? Or to try to smooth out differences and soften the acuteness of the issue, an acuteness created by life it self.
The battle was opened by the Right wing in the Duma. The Right-wing Cadet Petrazhitsky, tried to secure the adjournment of the debate. Naturally the Octobrists supported this Bight-wing Cadet. It became obvious that the counter revolution was afraid of the Duma appealing to the people.
By its definite stand the reaction helped to rally the whole Left wing of the Duma. The proposal to adjourn the debate was defeated. The debate itself very distinctly revealed the three main trends in the Duma. The “Rights” (the Octobrists and a section of the Cadets) were in favour of “pacifying” the peasant movement and therefore opposed to any appeal. The “Centre” (the Cadets and probably the majority of the non-party deputies) were in favour of “pacifying” the peasant movement and were therefore in favour of issuing a pacifying appeal. The “Left” trend (the Trudoviks, evidently only, a section of them, and the Social- Democrats) were in favour of explaining to the people that they cannot “wait peacefully and passively”, and were therefore in favour of a revolutionary and not a “pacifying” appeal.
The views of this last trend were most vividly expressed by the Trudovik Zhilkin, the Polish deputy Lednitsky and the Social-Democrat Ramishvili. “The people are clinging to their last, almost childish, hopes,” said Zhilkin. “I am not speaking about peace, order and tranquillity; I am speaking about the organised struggle against the old regime.... Did the State Duma come into being as the result of peace and tranquillity?” And, recalling the October struggle, the speaker, amidst the applause of the Left, exclaimed: “It is due to these ’disorders’ that we are here today.” “In this general sense,” rightly said the speaker, “the committee’s draft of the appeal to the people is very unsatisfactory” (but he should have added: the Trudoviks’ draft is also unsatisfactory for it does not contain the ideas and theses that Zhilkin outlined in his speech). “We must emphasise and at the end express the idea that not peace and tranquillity, but unrest in the good and grand sense of the term can organise the masses....
Lednitsky even employed one of the sharpest expressions that we employed yesterday, and said that the proposed appeal was “pitiful”. And Ramishvili, protesting “against calling upon the people to wait peacefully and quietly for a solution of the problem”, declared: “The revolutionary path is the only true path” (we are quoting from the report in Nasha Zhizn). He also urged that the Duma should say that the land must be transferred without redemption payments.
Most of the Cadet and “non-party” speakers were in favour of a “pacifying” appeal; they condemned the taking of revolutionary steps (Kotlyarevsky answering Lednitsky) and argued that an appeal was useful “from the point of view of the landowners” (the Cadet Yakushkin).
The Black Hundred Volkonsky, backed by Skirmunt and the Right Cadet Petrazhitsky, argued that the appeal was “dangerous” and likely to ignite the flames of revolution; and he referred to the law in accordance with which the Land Bill had to be passed by the Duma, then sent to the Council of State, etc., etc., etc.
The trends were excellently delineated. Once again it was revealed that the Cadets are vacillating between reaction and revolution; between the old regime and the people. Once again events have proved how short-sighted and stupid are the tactics of “supporting the Cadets”, tactics which can only weaken the revolutionary position of the Social-Democrats and the revolutionary democrats in the Duma. Once again events have proved that by acting independently the Social-Democrats can win over to their side a section of the Trudoviks and to some extent even split the Cadets.
The political situation itself is irresistibly determining the tactics of the Social-Democratic Party. In spite of the efforts of the Right-wing Social-Democrats, up to now there has not resulted any support of the Cadets, but what has resulted, fortunately, is an independent policy of the proletariat backed by a section of the peasant deputies. The outcome has not been the artificial division, invented by the opportunists: the Rights versus the combined Cadets, Trudoviks and Social-Democrats. The outcome has been a revolutionary division: the Social-Democrats and the Trudoviks against the Rights, with the Cadets swaying like reeds.
Unfortunately, our Social-Democratic deputies did not take full advantage of the extremely favourable situation. During the general debate they should certainly have introduced their own Social-Democratic draft of an appeal to the people. Only in that case would their policy have been definitively and completely the independent policy of the representatives of the class party of the proletariat, as the vanguard of the revolution. Only in that case would the correct ideas expressed by Ramishvili, Zhilkin and Lednitsky not have been submerged in the debate, but would have been combined, fixed and formulated in a clear and resolute platform of revolutionary Social-Democracy.
We can only express the wish that our Social-Democratic Group in the Duma will learn the lessons of the groupings that are more and more often occurring in the Duma, and more resolutely pursue an absolutely, independent proletarian policy; that when the draft appeal is discussed para graph by paragraph they will at least to some extent rectify matters by proposing their own independent amendments couched in consistently revolutionary terms.
A Social-Democratic draft of an appeal to the people, even if it remains only a draft read in the Duma, will have an extremely valuable effect in uniting and developing the revolutionary struggle, and will win over to the side of Social-Democracy the finest elements of the revolutionary peasantry.
- The Taurida Palace was the building in which the sessions of the State Duma were held.
- See pp. 96-100 of this volume—Ed.