The Social-Democrats and Electoral Agreements
Published in pamphlet form in November 1906 by Vperyod Publishers. Published according to the pamphlet text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 275-298.
The pamphlet The Social-Democrats and Electoral Agreements was printed in November 1906 by the Vperyod Publishers in St. Petersburg. Five years later, in 1012, the Press Committee banned the pamphlet and the Court of Justice confirmed this. On January 30 (February 12), 1912, the remaining copies were destroyed at the printing press of the city authorities.
The election campaign for the Second Duma is now a subject of great interest in the workers’ party. Special attention is being devoted to the question of “blocs”, i.e., permanent or temporary electoral agreements between the Social-Democrats and other parties. The bourgeois, Cadet press— Rech, Tovarishch, Novy Put, Oko, etc.—are doing their utmost to convince the workers of the need for a “bloc” (an electoral agreement) between the Social-Democrats and the Cadets. Some Menshevik Social-Democrats are also advocating such blocs (Cherevanin in Nashe Dyelo and Tovarishch), others are opposed to them (Martov in Tovarishch). The Bolshevik Social-Democrats are opposed to such blocs, and agree only to partial agreements at the higher stages of the election campaign on the distribution of seats in proportion to the polling strength of the revolutionary and opposition parties at the primary ballot.
We shall try to state briefly the case for this last standpoint.
Social-Democrats regard parliamentarism (participation in representative assemblies) as one of the means of enlightening and educating the proletariat and organising it in an independent class party; as one of the methods of the political struggle for the emancipation of the workers. This Marxist standpoint radically distinguishes Social-Democracy from bourgeois democracy, on the one hand, and from anarchism on the other. Bourgeois liberals and radicals regard parliamentarism as the “natural” and the only normal and legitimate method of conducting state affairs in general, and they repudiate the class struggle and the class character of modern parliamentarism. The bourgeoisie exerts every effort, by every possible means and on every possible occasion, to put blinkers on the eyes of the workers to prevent them from seeing that parliamentarism is an instrument of bourgeois oppression, to prevent them from realising the historically limited importance of parliamentarism. The anarchists are also unable to appreciate the historically defined importance of parliamentarism and entirely renounce this method of struggle. That is why the Social-Democrats in Russia strenuously combat both anarchism and the efforts of the bourgeoisie to stop the revolution as soon as possible by coming to terms with the old regime on a parliamentary basis. They subordinate their parliamentary activities entirely and absolutely to the general interests of the working-class movement and to the special tasks of the proletariat in the present bourgeois-democratic revolution.
Hence it follows, firstly, that the participation of the Social-Democrats in the Duma campaign is of a quite different nature from that of other parties. Unlike them, we do not regard this campaign as an end in itself or even as being of cardinal importance. Unlike them, we subordinate this campaign to the interests of the class struggle. Unlike them, the slogan we put forward in this campaign is not parliamentarism for the sake of parliamentary reforms, but the revolutionary struggle for a constituent assembly. More over, we wage this struggle in its highest forms, which have arisen from the historical development of the forms of struggle during the last few years.
What conclusion follows from the foregoing in regard to electoral agreements? First of all, that our basic, main task is to develop the class-consciousness and independent class organisation of the proletariat, as the only class that remains revolutionary to the end, as the only possible leader of a victorious bourgeois-democratic revolution. Therefore, class independence throughout the election and Duma campaigns is our most important general task. This does not exclude other, partial tasks, but the latter must always be subordinate to and in conformity with it. This general premise, which is confirmed by the theory of Marxism and the whole experience of the international Social-Democratic movement, must be our point of departure.
The special tasks of the proletariat in the Russian revolution may seem at once to controvert this general premise on the following grounds: the big bourgeoisie has already betrayed the revolution through the Octobrists, or has made it its aim to put a stop to the revolution by means of a constitution (the Cadets); the victory of the revolution is possible only if the proletariat is supported by the most progressive and politically conscious section of the peasantry, whose objective position impels it to fight and not to compromise, to carry through and not to curb the revolution. Hence, some may conclude, the Social-Democrats must enter into agreements with the democratic peasantry for the whole duration of the elections.
But such a conclusion cannot be drawn from the absolutely correct premise that the complete victory of our revolution is possible only in the form of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. It has yet to be proved that a bloc with the democratic peasantry for the whole duration of the elections is possible and advantageous from the point of view of present party relationships (the democratic peasantry in our country is now represented not by one, but by various parties) and from the point of view of the present electoral system. It has yet to be proved that by forming a bloc with this or that party we shall express and uphold the interests of the truly revolutionary sections of the peasantry better than by preserving the complete independence of our Party in criticising such-and-such democratic peasant parties, and in counterposing some elements of the democratic peasantry to others. The premise that the proletariat is closest to the revolutionary peasantry in the present revolution undoubtedly leads to the general political “line” of Social-Democracy: together with the democratic peasantry against the treacherous big-bourgeois “democrats” (the Cadets). But whether it leads to the formation at the present time of an election bloc with the Popular Socialists (Popular Socialist Party), or the Socialist-Revolutionaries cannot lie decided without an analysis of the features which distinguish these parties from each other and from the Cadets, without an analysis of the present electoral system with its numerous stages. Only one thing follows from it, directly and absolutely: under no circumstances can we during our election campaign confine ourselves to baldly and abstractly counterposing the proletariat to the bourgeois democrats in general. On the contrary, we must devote our whole attention to drawing a precise distinction, based on the historical facts of our revolution, between the liberal-monarchist and the revolutionary-democratic bourgeoisie, or, to put it more concretely, to the distinction between the Cadets, Popular Socialists, and Socialist-Revolutionaries. Only by drawing such a distinction shall we be able to determine most correctly who our closest “allies” are. But, firstly, we shall not forget that the Social-Democrats must watch every ally from the bourgeois democrats as they would an enemy. Secondly, we shall examine very carefully to see which is most advantageous: to tie our hands in a general bloc with some Popular Socialists (for instance), or to preserve complete independence so as to be quite free at the decisive moment to split the non-party “Trudoviks” into opportunists (P. S.’s) and revolutionaries (S.-R.’s), to counterpose the latter to the former, etc.
Thus, the argument about the proletarian-peasant character of our revolution does not entitle us to conclude that we must enter into agreements with this or that democratic peas ant party at this or that stage of the elections to the Second Duma. It is not even a sufficient argument for limiting the class independence of the proletariat during the elections, let alone for renouncing this independence.
In order to come nearer to the solution of our problem we must, firstly, examine the fundamental party groupings in the elections to the Second Duma and, secondly, examine the specific features of the present electoral system.
Electoral agreements are concluded between parties. What are the main types of parties that will contest the elections? The Black Hundreds will no doubt unite even more closely than during the elections to the First Duma. The Octobrists and the Party of Peaceful Renovation will join either the Black Hundreds or the Cadets, or, more probably, will oscillate between the two. In any case, to regard the Octobrists as a “party of the Centre” (as L. Martov does in his latest pamphlet, Political Parties in Russia) is a fundamental error: in the actual struggle which must finally decide the outcome of our revolution, the Cadets form the Centre. The Cadets are an organised party that is going into the elections independently and, moreover, is intoxicated with its success at the First Duma elections. But the discipline of this party is not of the strictest and its solidarity not of the strongest. The Left-wing Cadets are disgruntled about the defeat at Helsingfors and are protesting. Some of them (Mr. Alexinsky in Moscow, recently) are going over to the Popular Socialists. In the First Duma there were some “exceptionally rare” Cadets who even gave their signatures to the Bill of the "33" for the abolition of all private ownership of land (Badamshin, Zubchenko and Lozhkin). Hence, to split off at least a small section from this “Centre” and bring it towards the Left is not a hopeless proposition. The Cadets are only too conscious of their weakness among the mass of the people (quite recently even the Cadet Tovarishch had to admit this), and they would readily agree to a bloc with the Lefts. It is not for nothing that the Cadet newspapers have with such tender joy opened their columns to the Social-Democrats Martov and Cherevanin to discuss the question of a bloc between the Social-Democrats and the Cadets. We, of course, will never forget, and will tell it to the masses during the election campaign, that the Cadets failed to keep their promises in the First Duma, that they obstructed the Trudoviks, played at making constitutions, etc., etc., going to the extent of keeping silent about the “four points”, the Draconian Bills, and so forth.
Next come the “Trudoviks”. The parties of this type, namely the petty-bourgeois and predominantly peasant par ties, are divided into the non-party “Trudovik Group” (which held a congress recently), the Popular Socialists and the Socialist-Revolutionaries (the Polish Socialist Party, etc., correspond more or less to the Socialist-Revolutionaries). The only more or less consistent and determined revolutionaries and republicans among them are the S.-R.’s. The Popular Socialists are much worse opportunists than our Mensheviks; strictly speaking, they are semi-Cadets. The non-party “Trudovik Group” has, perhaps, more influence among the peasantry than the others; but the strength of its democratic convictions is difficult to determine, although it is undoubtedly far more Left than the Cadets, and evidently belongs to the camp of revolutionary democracy.
The Social-Democratic Party is the only party which, in spite of internal dissensions, will enter the elections as a thoroughly disciplined body, which has a fully definite and strictly class basis, and which has united all the Social- Democratic parties of all the nationalities in Russia.
But how are we to enter into a general bloc with the Trudoviks, considering the composition of this type of party, as outlined above? What sureties have we for the non-party Trudoviks? Is a bloc possible between party and non-party people? How do we know that Alexinsky & Co. will not, tomorrow, turn from the Popular Socialists back to the Cadets?
It is clear that a real party agreement with the Trudoviks is impossible. It is clear that we must not under any circumstances help to unite the opportunist Popular Socialists with the revolutionary S.-R.’s; on the contrary, we must split them and counterpose one to the other. It is clear that the existence of a non-party Trudovik Group makes it more to our advantage in all respects to preserve complete independence in order to exert a really revolutionary influence upon them than to tie our hands and blur the distinctions between the monarchists and the republicans, etc. It is absolutely impermissible for Social-Democrats to blur these distinctions; and for this reason alone it is necessary to reject blocs altogether, once the present grouping of parties unites the non-party Trudoviks, the Popular Socialists and the Socialist-Revolutionaries.
Can they really unite, and are they doing so? They certainly can unite, for they have the same petty-bourgeois class basis. They were, in fact, united in the First Duma, in the press during the October period, in the press of the Duma period, and in the ballots among the students (si licet parva componere magnis—if the small may be compared with the great). A minor symptom, but a characteristic one when connected with others, is the fact that in the ballots of the “autonomous” students there were often three conflicting lists: the Cadets, the bloc of the Trudoviks, Popular Socialists, Socialist-Revolutionaries and Polish Socialist Party, and, lastly, the Social-Democrats.
From the point of view of the proletariat, clarity as regards the class grouping of the parties is of supreme importance; and the advantage of independently influencing the non-party Trudoviks (or those who are oscillating between the Popular Socialists and the Socialist-Revolutionaries) is obvious compared with attempts by the Party to reach an agreement with the non-party people. The facts relating to the parties compel the following conclusion: no agreements whatsoever at the lower stage, when agitation is carried on among the masses; at the higher stages all efforts must be directed towards defeating the Cadets during the distribution of seats by means of a partial agreement between the Social-Democrats and Trudoviks, and towards defeating the Popular Socialists by means of a partial agreement between the Social-Democrats and the Socialist-Revolutionaries.
The objection will be raised: while you incorrigibly utopian Bolsheviks are dreaming of defeating the Cadets, you will all be defeated by the Black Hundreds, because you will split the vote! The Social-Democrats, the Trudoviks and the Cadets together would rout the Black Hundreds for certain; but by acting separately, you may present the common enemy with an easy victory. Let us assume that the Black Hundreds get 26 per cent of the votes, the Trudoviks and Cadets 25 per cent each, and the Social-Democrats 24 per cent. The Black Hundreds will get in unless the Social Democrats, the Trudoviks and the Cadets form a bloc.
This objection is often taken seriously, and so we must carefully analyse it. But in order to analyse it, we must examine the given, i.e., the present electoral system in Russia.
Our Duma elections are not direct, but multiple-stage elections. In multiple-stage elections the splitting of votes is dangerous only at the lower stage. It is only when the primary voters go to the poll that the division of the votes is an unknown quantity; it is only in our agitation among the masses that we have to work “in the dark”. At the higher stages, when the elected representatives vote, the general engagement is over; all that remains is to distribute the seats by partial agreements among the parties, which know the exact number of their candidates and their votes.
The lowest stage in the elections is the election of electors in the cities, the election of representatives—one per ten households—-in the villages, and the election of delegates to the workers’ curia.
In the cities, in every electoral area (ward, etc.), we face a great mass of voters. There is, undoubtedly, a danger of splitting the vote. It cannot be denied that in the cities Black-Hundred electors may be elected in some places exclusively because of the absence of a “bloc of the Lefts”, exclusively because, let us say, the Social-Democrats may divert part of the votes from the Cadets. It will be recalled that in Moscow Guchkov received something like 900 votes, and the Cadets about 1,400. If a Social-Democrat had taken 501 votes from the Cadet, Guchkov would have won. And there is no doubt that the general public will take this simple calculation into account; they will be afraid of splitting the vote, and because of that will be inclined to cast their votes only for the most moderate of the opposition candidates. We shall have what is called in England a “three-cornered” fight, when the urban petty bourgeoisie are afraid to vote for a socialist candidate because it would take votes from the liberal and thus allow the conservative to win.
How can this danger be averted? There is only one way: to conclude an agreement at the lower stage, that is, put up a joint list of electors in which the number of candidates of each party is determined by a definite agreement of the parties before the contest. All the parties entering into the agreement call upon the electorate to vote for this joint list.
Let us examine the arguments for and against this method. The arguments for are as follows: agitation can be conducted upon strictly party lines. Let the Social-Democrats criticise the Cadets before the masses as much as they like, but let them add: yet they are better than the Black Hundreds, and therefore we have agreed upon a joint list.
The arguments against are as follows: a joint list would be in crying contradiction to the whole independent class policy of the Social-Democratic Party. By recommending a joint list of Cadets and Social-Democrats to the masses we would be bound to cause hopeless confusion of class and political divisions. We would undermine the principles and the general revolutionary significance of our campaign for the sake of gaining a seat in the Duma for a liberal! We would be subordinating class policy to parliamentarism instead of subordinating parliamentarism to class policy. We would deprive ourselves of the opportunity to gain an estimate of our forces. We would lose what is lasting and durable in all elections—the development of the class-consciousness and solidarity of the socialist proletariat. We would gain what is transient, relative and untrue—superiority of the Cadet over the Octobrist.
Why should we jeopardise our consistent work of socialist education? Because of the danger of Black-Hundred candidates? But all the cities in Russia combined have only 35 of the 524 seats in the Duma (St. Petersburg 6, Moscow 4, Warsaw and Tashkent 2 each, the other 21 cities 1 each). This means that the cities by themselves cannot under any circumstances materially affect the composition of the Duma. Besides, we cannot confine ourselves to the merely formal consideration of the arithmetical possibility of splitting the votes. We must ascertain whether there is any great political probability of this happening. An analysis shows that the Black Hundreds obtained a very small minority even in the elections to the First Duma, that cases like the “Guchkov” case mentioned above were exceptional. According to statistics in Vestnik Kadetskoi Partii (No. 7, April 19, 1906), in 20 cities, which sent 28 deputies to the Duma— out of 1,761 electors 1,468 were Cadets, 32 Progressists, 25 non-party, 128 Octobrists, 32 of the Commercial and Industrial Party, and 76 of the Right, i.e., total Rights 236, less than 15 per cent. In ten cities not a single elector of the Rights was returned; in three cities not more than ten electors (out of eighty) of the Rights were returned in each of them. Is it reasonable, under such circumstances, to give up the struggle for our own class candidates because of an exaggerated fear of the Black Hundreds? Would not such a policy, even from a narrow, practical point of view, betray short-sightedness, not to speak of instability of principles?
And what about a bloc with the Trudoviks against the Cadets? we shall be asked. But we have already pointed out the special features of the party relations among the Trudoviks, which make such a bloc undesirable and inexpedient. In the cities, where the working-class population is mostly concentrated, we must never, except in case of extreme necessity, refrain from putting up absolutely independent Social-Democratic candidates. And there is no such urgent necessity. A few Cadets or Trudoviks more or less (especially of the Popular-Socialist type!) are of no serious political importance, for the Duma itself can, at best, play only a subsidiary, secondary role. It is the peasantry, the gubernia assemblies of electors, that are of decisive political importance in determining the results of the Duma elections, and not the cities. In the gubernia assemblies of electors, however, we shall achieve our general political alliance with the Trudoviks against the Cadets far better and more certainly, without in the least infringing our strict principles, than at the lower stage of the elections in the countryside. We shall now discuss the elections in the countryside.
In the big cities, as is well known, there were cases where the state of organisation of the political parties swept away one stage of the elections. By law the elections consisted of two stages. In practice, however, the elections sometimes proved to be direct, or almost direct, as the electorate definitely knew the character of the contending parties, and in some cases they even knew the persons whom a given party intended to send into the Duma. In the countryside, on the contrary, there are so many stages, the electorate is so scattered, and the obstacles to open party action are so great that the elections to the First Duma were, and those to the Second Duma will be, conducted very much “under a cloak”. In other words, very often, and even in the majority of cases, party propagandists will speak to the electors on par ties in general, deliberately mentioning no names out of fear of the police. The radical and revolutionary peasants (and not only peasants) will deliberately screen themselves behind the title “non-party”. At the election of one delegate per ten households it is knowledge of the person as such, personal confidence in this or that candidate, sympathy with his Social-Democratic speeches that will decide the issue. Here the number of Social-Democrats backed by a local Party organisation will be very small. But the number of Social-Democrats who win the sympathies of the local rural population may prove to be much larger than might be expected from the number of local Party units in those districts.
Petty-bourgeois romanticists like the Popular Socialists, who are dreaming of a legal Socialist Party under the existing order, do not understand how confidence in and sympathy with the underground party are growing because of its consistent, uncompromising, militant spirit and the elusiveness of its organisation, which influences the masses not through Party men alone. A real revolutionary illegal party, steeled in battle, accustomed to the Plehves, and undismayed by the stern measures of the Stolypins, may, in the period of civil war, be capable of influencing the masses to a greater extent than any legal party which, with “callow simplicity”, takes a “strictly constitutional path”.
The Social-Democrats who are members of the Party, and Social-Democrats who do not belong to it, will have good chances of success at the elections of the one-per-ten-house hold representatives and the delegates. A bloc with the Trudoviks, or a joint list, is not at all important for success at this stage of the election in the countryside. On the one hand, the electoral units are quite small there, and on the other, real party Trudoviks, or such as at all resemble them, will be quite rare. The strict Party spirit of the Social-Democrats, their unconditional submission to the Party which has been able to exist illegally for many years and has reached a membership of 100,000 to 150,000 of all nationalities, the only Party on the extreme Left which formed a Party Group in the First Duma—this Party spirit will be a powerful recommendation and guarantee for all those who are not afraid of a resolute struggle and wish for it whole-heartedly, but do not altogether trust their own strength, are afraid of taking the initiative and are afraid to come out openly. We must utilise this advantage of being a strict, “illegal” party to the utmost, and we have nothing to gain by weakening it even slightly by any kind of permanent bloc. The only other resolute and determinedly revolutionary party likely to compete with us are the Socialist-Revolutionaries. But a bloc with them on a really party basis at the first stage of the rural elections would be possible only as an exception: one has only to picture to oneself clearly what the actual election conditions are like in the country side to become convinced of this. Insofar as the non-party revolutionary peasants will be active, while deliberately refraining from associating with any one party, it will be more to our advantage in all respects to influence them in the sense we desire along strictly party lines. The non-party character of the association, of the agitation, need not hamper the party Social-Democrat, for the revolutionary peasants will never wish to exclude him; and his participation in a non-party revolutionary association is especially sanctioned by the resolution of the Unity Congress on supporting the peasant movement.Thus, while preserving and upholding our Party principle, utilising fully its enormous moral and political advantages, we can at the same time fully adapt ourselves to the task of working among the non-party revolutionary peasants, in the non-party revolutionary associations, circles and meetings, of working with the aid of our non-party revolutionary connections, and so forth. Instead of forming a bloc with the Socialist-Revolutionaries, who have succeeded in organising only a very small fraction of the revolutionary peasantry—a bloc that would restrict and cramp our strict Party principle—we shall make wider and freer use of our Party position and of all the advantages of working among the non-party “Trudoviks”.
The conclusion to be drawn is that at the lower stages of the election campaign in the countryside, that is, at the election of the one-per-ten-household representatives and of the delegates (sometimes the election of the delegates will, in practice, probably be tantamount to a first stage election), there is no need for us to enter into any electoral agreements. The percentage of men with definite political views who are suitable as candidates for the office of one-per-ten-household representatives, or delegates, is so small that the Social-Democrats who have gained the confidence and respect of the peasants (and without this condition no serious candidature is conceivable) have every chance, almost to a man, of being elected as one-per-ten-household representatives and delegates, without having to enter into any agreement with other parties.
As for the assemblies of delegates, there we shall be able to base our policy upon the exact results of the primary election contests which have decided the whole matter in advance. Here we can and must enter into—not blocs, of course, not close and permanent agreements—but partial agreements on the distribution of seats. Here, and even more so on the assemblies of electors for the election of the Duma deputies, we must, in conjunction with the Trudoviks, defeat the Cadets, and in conjunction with the Socialist-Revolutionaries, defeat the Popular Socialists, etc.
Thus, an examination of the actual electoral system shows that blocs at the lower stages of the elections are particularly undesirable in the cities, and are not essential. In the countryside, at the lower stages (i.e., at the election of the one- per-ten-household representatives and of the delegates), blocs are both undesirable and quite unnecessary. The uyezd assemblies of delegates and the gubernia assemblies of electors are of decisive political importance. Here, i.e., at the higher stages, partial agreements are necessary and possible without undesirable infringement of party principle; for the contest before the masses has ended, and there is no need to advocate before the masses directly or indirectly (or even by assumption) a non-party policy; neither is there the least danger of obscuring the strictly independent class policy of the proletariat.
Now let us examine, first from the formal, arithmetical point of view, so to speak, what forms these partial electoral agreements will assume at the higher stages.
We shall take approximate percentages, i.e., the distribution of electors (and delegates, who are included in what follows) according to party, per hundred electors. To succeed in an assembly of electors a candidate must obtain at least 51 votes out of every 100. This indicates that the general tactical rule of the Social-Democratic electors must be: to try to win over a sufficient number of bourgeois-democratic electors who sympathise with Social-Democracy, or such as most deserve support, in order jointly with them to defeat the rest and thus secure the election of in part Social-Democratic and in part the best bourgeois-democratic electors.
We shall illustrate this rule by simple examples. Let us assume that out of 100 electors, 49 are Black Hundreds, 40 are Cadets and 11 are Social-Democrats. A partial agreement between the Social-Democrats and the Cadets is necessary in order to secure the election in full of a joint list of Duma candidates, on the basis, of course, of a proportional distribution of Duma seats according to the number of electors (i.e., in this case, one-fifth of the Duma seats from the whole gubernia, say, two out of ten, would go to the Social-Democrats, and four-fifths, or eight out of ten, would go to the Cadets). If there are 49 Cadets, 40 Trudoviks and 11 Social-Democrats, we must try to reach an agreement with the Trudoviks so as to defeat the Cadets and to win one-fifth of the seats for ourselves and four-fifths for the Trudoviks. In such a case we would have a splendid opportunity to test the consistency and steadfastness of the democratic convictions of the Trudoviks: would they agree to turn away from the Cadets entirely and defeat them in conjunction with the electors of the workers’ party, or would they rather choose to “save” this or that Cadet or, perhaps, even prefer a bloc with the Cadets to one with the Social-Democrats? Here we can, and must, demonstrate and prove to the whole people to what extent particular petty-bourgeois elements are gravitating towards the monarchist bourgeoisie or towards the revolutionary proletariat.
In the last example the Trudoviks stand to gain an obvious advantage by forming a bloc with the Social-Democrats and not with the Cadets, for in the former case they would obtain four-fifths of the total number of seats, whereas in the latter case they would obtain only four-ninths. Still more interesting would be the reverse case: 11 Cadets, 40 Trudoviks and 49 Social-Democrats. In such a case the prospect of an obvious advantage would impel the Trudoviks t.o enter into a bloc with the Cadets: in that case “we” shall get more seats in the Duma, they will say. But loyalty to the principles of democracy and to he interests of the real working masses would certainly call for a bloc with the Social-Democrats, even at the cost of some seats in the Duma. The representatives of the proletariat must carefully take all such cases into account and explain to the electors and to the whole people (the results of agreements in the assemblies of delegates and electors must be publicly announced) the significance from the point of view of principle of this election arithmetic.
Further, in the last example we see a case where both the prospect of obvious advantage and considerations of principle are inducements to the Social-Democrats to split the Trudoviks. If among them there are, say, two fully party Socialist-Revolutionaries, we must exert every effort to win them to our side and with 51 votes defeat all the Cadets and all the rest of the less revolutionary Trudoviks. If among the Trudoviks there are two Socialist-Revolutionaries and 38 Popular Socialists, we shall have an opportunity to test the loyalty of the Socialist-Revolutionaries to the interests of democracy and to the interests of the working masses. We would say: vote for the republican democrats and against the Popular Socialists, who tolerate the monarchy; vote for the confiscation of the landlords’ land and against the Popular Socialists, who tolerate redemption payments; vote for those who are for arming the whole people and against the Popular Socialists, who accept a standing army. And then we would see whom the Socialist-Revolutionaries would prefer—the Social-Cadets or the Social-Democrats.
This brings us to the question of the significance of this election arithmetic from the point of view of political principle. Our duty here is to oppose seat-hunting and to put forward an absolutely firm and consistent defence of the standpoint of the socialist proletariat and of the interests of the complete victory of our bourgeois-democratic revolution. Under no circumstances, and in no way, should our Social-Democratic delegates and electors keep silent about our socialist aims, our strictly class position as a proletarian party. But a mere repetition of the word “class” is not sufficient to indicate the role of the proletariat as the vanguard in the present revolution. Expounding our socialist doctrine and the general theory of Marxism is not sufficient to prove the leading role of the proletariat. This requires, in addition, the ability to show in practice, in analysing the burning questions of the present revolution, that the members of the workers’ party are more consistent, more unerring, more determined and more skilful than all others in defending the interests of this revolution, the cause of its complete victory. This is no easy task, and the fundamental and chief duty of every Social-Democrat who is entering the election campaign is to prepare for it.
To determine the differences between the parties and shades of parties at the assemblies of delegates and of electors (as well as throughout the election campaign—that goes without saying) will be a small, but useful practical task. In this matter, incidentally, the course of events will settle many controversial questions which are agitating the members of the Social-Democratic Labour Party. The Right wing of the Party, from the extreme opportunists of Nashe Dyelo to the moderate opportunists of Sotsial-Demokrat, are doing their utmost to obliterate and distort the difference between the Trudoviks and the Cadets, evidently failing to notice a new and very important phenomenon, namely, the division of the Trudoviks into Popular Socialists, Socialist Revolutionaries, and those who are gravitating to the one or the other. Of course, the history of the First Duma and its dissolution already provided documentary evidence making the drawing of a distinction between the Cadets and the Trudoviks absolutely imperative and proving that the latter are more consistently and staunchly democratic than the former. The election campaign to the Second Duma must prove and show this even more graphically, more exactly, more fully, and more widely. As we have tried to show by examples, the election campaign itself will teach the Social-Democrats to distinguish correctly between the various bourgeois-democratic parties and will refute, or, more correctly, sweep aside, the deeply mistaken opinion that the Cadets are the chief or, at any rate, important representatives of our bourgeois democracy in general.
Let us point out, too, that in the election campaign in general, and in concluding electoral agreements at the higher stages, the Social-Democrats must speak simply and clearly, in a language comprehensible to the masses, absolutely discarding the heavy artillery of erudite terms, foreign words and stock slogans, definitions and conclusion which are as yet unfamiliar and unintelligible to the masses. Without flamboyant phrases, without rhetoric, but with facts and figures, they must be able to explain the questions of social ism and of the present Russian revolution.
Two fundamental questions of this revolution, the questions of freedom and of land, will inevitably arise here. Upon these fundamental questions which are agitating the vast mass of the people we must concentrate both purely socialist propaganda—the difference between the standpoint of the small proprietor and that of the proletariat—and the distinction between the parties fighting for influence over the people. The Black Hundreds, right up to the Octobrists inclusively, are against freedom, against giving the land to the people. They want to stop the revolution by force, bribery and deceit. The liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie, the Cadets, are also striving to stop the revolution, but by means of a number of concessions. They do not want to give the people either complete freedom, or all the land. They want to preserve landlordism by means of redemption payments and local land committees not elected on the basis of universal, direct and equal suffrage by secret ballot. The Trudoviks, i.e., the petty bourgeoisie, especially the rural petty bourgeoisie, are striving to secure all the land and complete freedom, but are pursuing this aim hesitatingly, not consciously, timidly, vacillating between the opportunism of the Social-Cadets (the Popular Socialists)—who justify the hegemony of the liberal bourgeoisie over the peasantry and elevate it to a theory—and utopian equality, alleged to be possible under commodity production. Social-Democracy must consistently uphold the standpoint of the proletariat and purge the revolutionary consciousness of the peasantry of Popular-Socialist opportunism and of utopianism, which obscure the really urgent tasks of the present revolution. Only when its complete victory is attained can the working class, and the whole people, really, quickly, boldly, freely and widely set to work to solve the fundamental problem of the whole of civilised mankind: the emancipation of labour from the yoke of capital.
We shall also deal carefully with the question of the means of struggle in the election campaign and in the conclusion of partial agreements with other parties. We shall explain what a constituent assembly is, and why the Cadets fear it. We shall ask the liberal bourgeoisie, the Cadets, what measures they intend to advocate and put into practice independently to make it impossible for anyone to treat the people’s representatives in the way the deputies of the “first enrolment” were “treated”. We shall remind the Cadets of their vile and treacherous attitude towards the October-December forms of struggle last year, and make it known to the widest possible sections of the people. We shall ask every candidate whether he intends to subordinate all his activities in the Duma entirely to the interests of the struggle outside the Duma and the interests of wide popular movement for land and freedom. We must take advantage of the election campaign to organise the revolution, i.e., to organise the proletariat and the really revolutionary elements of bourgeois democracy.
Such is the positive content which we must try to impart to the whole election campaign and, in particular, to the matter of entering into partial agreements with other parties.
To sum up.
In their general election tactics the Social-Democrats must take as their starting-point the complete independence of the class party of the revolutionary proletariat.
This general principle may be departed from only in cases of extreme necessity and under specially limited conditions.
The specific features of the Russian electoral system and the political groupings among the overwhelming mass of the population, tie peasantry, do riot give rise to this extreme necessity at the lower stages of the election campaign, i.e., during the election of electors in the big cities and of the one- per-ten-household representatives and delegates in the countryside. It does not arise in the big cities because here the importance of the elections is not at all determined by the number of deputies to be sent into the Duma, but by the opportunities for the Social-Democrats to address the widest and most concentrated sections of the population, which are the “most Social-Democratic” in virtue of their whole position.
In the countryside, the fact that the masses are politically undeveloped and amorphous, the sparse and scattered nature of the population, and the external conditions of the elections especially provoke the development of non-party (and non-party revolutionary) organisations, associations, circles, assemblies, opinions and strivings. Under these circumstances, blocs are quite unnecessary at the lower stages. Strict adherence to Party principle in all respects is the most correct and most expedient policy for Social-Democrats.
Thus, the general proposition that an alliance between the proletariat and the revolutionary peasantry is necessary leads us to the conclusion that the only agreements that are necessary are partial agreements (such as agreements with the Trudoviks against the Cadets) at the higher stages of the electoral system, i.e., in the assemblies of delegates and electors. The special features of the political divisions among the Trudoviks also recommend this solution of the problem.
In all these partial agreements the Social-Democrats must strictly distinguish between the different bourgeois-democratic parties and the various shades among them according to the degree of consistency and steadfastness of their democratic convictions.
The ideological and political content of the election campaign and of the partial agreements will lie in explaining the theory of socialism and the independent, slogans of the Social-Democrats in the present revolution, both in regard to the aims of this revolution and the ways and means of achieving them.
This pamphlet was written before Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 5, had appeared. Prior to the issue of this number our Party had every reason to hope that the Central Committee of our Party would absolutely disapprove of first-stage agreements with bourgeois parties, agreements which should be impermissible for socialists. We could not help thinking so, for such an influential Menshevik as Comrade L. Martov had emphatically expressed his opposition to all agreements at the first stage, writing not only in Tovarishch, but also in a letter sent out from the Central Committee to the organisations (written by Martov) on the question of preparing for the election campaign.
It now turns out that our Central Committee has gone over to Cherevanin or, at least, has wavered. The leading article in Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 5, sanctions blocs at the first stage, without even indicating precisely with which bourgeois parties! Today’s (October 31) letter from Plekhanov, who for the purpose of defending a bloc with the Cadets has migrated to the Cadet newspaper Tovarishch, makes it clear to all whose influence it was that caused the Central Committee to waver. And Plekhanov, as usual, with the air of an oracle, delivers the most banal platitudes, entirely evading the class aims of the socialist proletariat (perhaps out of politeness to the bourgeois newspaper which has given him shelter), and does not even attempt to touch on concrete facts and arguments.
Will this “peremptory command” from Geneva be sufficient to cause the Central Committee to slip from Martov ... to Cherevanin?
Will the decision of the Unity Congress, which prohibited all agreements with bourgeois parties, be nullified by the Central Committee that was elected at that Congress?
The united election campaign of the Social-Democrats is threatened with serious danger.
The socialist workers’ party is threatened with the danger of first-stage agreements with the bourgeois parties, which will demoralise the Party and prove fatal to the class independence of the proletariat.
Let all revolutionary Social-Democrats rally and declare relentless war upon opportunist confusion and vacillation!
- We shall not here touch on the question of boycott, as this does not come within the scope of this pamphlet. We shall only remark that this question cannot be properly appraised apart from the concrete historical situation. The boycott of the Bulygin Duma was successful. The boycott of the Witte Duma was necessary and correct. The revolutionary Social-Democrats must be the first to take the line of the most resolute, the most direct struggle, and must be the last to adopt more circuitous methods of struggle. The Stolypin Duma cannot he boycotted in the old way, and it would be wrong to do so after the experience of the First Duma.—Lenin
- Lenin is referring to the decisions of the Fourth Congress of the Cadet Party, held September 24-28 (October 7-11), 1906, in Helsingfors. In the debate on tactics the Central Committee of that Party moved a resolution rejecting the “passive resistance” proclaimed in the Vyborg Manifesto (see Note 48). The Left Cadets (mainly representatives of provincial organisations of the Party) moved their own resolution, in which “passive resistance” was acknowledged to be the immediate task of the Party. By a majority of votes the Congress adopted the Central Committee’s resolution which called for the Vyborg Manifesto not to be put into effect.
- The “four points”—a term applied to the democratic electoral system embracing four demands: universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot.
- Vestnik Partii Norodnoi Svobody (Herald of the Party of People’s Freedom)—a weekly magazine, the organ of the Cadet Party, published in St. Petersburg at intervals from February 22 (March 7), 1906. It was closed down after the 1917 October Revolution.
- The small towns, of course, also affect the composition of the gubernia electoral assemblies, through the town conferences. Here, too, the Cadets and the Progressists have had a great majority of votes: for instance, out of 571. electors elected by town conferences, 424 were Cadets and Progressists and 147 of the Right (Vestnik Kadetskoi Partii, No. 5, March 28, 1906). The figures for the separate towns fluctuate very considerably, of course. Under such circumstances we could probably, in very many cases, have put up an independent fight against the Cadets without fearing any accidental splitting of the votes, and without making ourselves dependent upon any non-Social-Democratic party. As for blocs at the lowest stage of elections in the workers’ curia, probably not a single Social-Democrat will speak of them seriously. Complete independence of the Social-Democrats is particularly necessary among the working-class masses—Lenin
- It was certainly no accident that the Socialist-Revolutionaries could not come forward as a party in the First Duma; could not rather than would not. The Socialist-Revolutionaries in the Duma, as well as those in the University, thought it more advantageous to hide behind the non-party Trudoviks, or to enter into a bloc with them.—Lenin
- It is interesting to note that experience of the distinction between agreements at a lower stage and those at higher stages is to be found, too, in the practice of the international Social-Democratic movement. In France, the election of Senators takes place in two stages: the voters elect departmental electors, who, in their turn, elect the Senators. The revolutionary French Social-Democrats, the Guesdists, have never permitted any agreements or joint lists at the lower stage, but have permitted partial agreements at the higher stage, i.e., for the distribution of seats in the assemblies of the departmental electors. The opportunists, however, the Jaurèsists, entered into agreements even at the lower stage.—Lenin
- For the sake of simplicity, we are assuming a purely and exclusively party distribution of electors. In practice, of course, we shall meet with many non-party electors. The task of the Social-Democratic electors will be to try as far as possible to ascertain the political character of all, especially of the bourgeois-democratic electors, and to form a “Left majority” consisting of the Social-Democrats and the bourgeois candidates most desirable for the Social-Democrats. The main criteria for distinguishing between party trends we shall discuss later.—Lenin
- This is what Soznatelnaya Rossiya called the Popular Socialists. Incidentally, the first and second issues of this publication have given us great satisfaction. Chernov, Vadimov and others brilliantly criticise both Peshekhonov and Tag—in. Particularly good is the refutation of Tag—in’s arguments from the point of view of the theory of commodity production, developing through capitalism into socialism.—Lenin