The Social-Democrats and the Duma Elections
|Written||13 January 1907|
Published in pamphlet form in January 1907, by Nova Duma Publishers. Published according to the pamphlet text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 431-455.
The pamphlet The Social-Democrats and the Duma Elections was printed in January 1907 by the Novaya Duma Publishers in St. Petersburg at the print-shop of the Dyelo association, which simultaneously printed Lenin’s pamphlet “When You Hear the Judgement of a Fool....” (From the Notes of a Social-Democratic Publicist). In 1912 both pamphlets were prohibited by the government.
The Social-Democrats and the Elections in St. Petersburg[edit source]
The conference of the St. Petersburg Social-Democratic organisation adopted a resolution not to enter into a bloc with the Cadets, but to propose an agreement with the Trudoviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries. The Mensheviks made a number of protests on formal grounds and, being in a minority, walked out of the conference.
The liberal newspapers have already made a lot of noise about this event. They predict a split in the Social-Democratic Party, and hasten to draw a number of political conclusions. In view of this it is extremely important for every class-conscious worker to understand what is really taking place in the Social-Democratic organisation in St. Petersburg and what attitude to adopt towards this.
We propose, therefore, to examine the main questions that arise in connection with this event, namely: (1) the composition of the conference; (2) the immediate reason why the Mensheviks walked out of the conference—the attempt of the Central Committee to divide the conference into two parts, one for the city and one for the gubernia; and (3) the significance of the whole event, especially in view of the election campaign now proceeding in St. Petersburg.
I. The Conditions Under Which the Social-Democratic Conference was Convened, and Its Composition[edit source]
The object of the conference of the St. Petersburg organisation was to adopt a final decision on the most important political question of the day, namely: whether or not to enter into agreements with the Cadets at the first stage of the Duma elections.
The Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party is organised on democratic lines. This means that all the affairs of the Party are conducted, either directly, or through representatives, by all the members of the Party., all of whom without exception have equal rights; moreover, all officials, all leading bodies, and all institutions of the Party are subject to election, are responsible to their constituents, and are subject to recall. The affairs of the St. Petersburg organisation are managed by an elected body, the St. Petersburg Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. The supreme body of the St. Petersburg organisation, in view of the impossibility of bringing together all the members of the Party (about 6,000), is the conference of representatives of the organisation. To this conference all members of the organisation have a right to send representatives: one delegate for a definite number of Party members; one delegate for every 50 members, for instance, the ratio that was adopted for the last conference. These representatives must be elected by all the members of the Party, and a decision adopted by the representatives is supreme and final for the whole of the local organisation.
But this is not all. In order that the settlement of a question may be really democratic, it is not enough to call together the elected representatives of the organisation. It is necessary that all the members of the organisation, in electing their representatives, should at the same time independently, and each for himself, express their opinion on the point at issue before the whole organisation. Democratically organised parties and unions cannot, on principle, dispense with such a canvass of the opinion of every member without exception, in the most important cases at any rate, and especially when it is a question of a political action in which the masses act independently, e. g., a strike, elections, the boycott of some important local institution, etc.
Why is it considered insufficient to send representatives in such cases? Why must there be a canvass of the opinion of all members of the Party or what is called a “referendum”? Because the success of mass actions requires the conscious and voluntary participation of every individual worker. A strike cannot be conducted with the necessary solidarity, voting at elections will not be conducted intelligently, unless every worker consciously and voluntarily decides for himself the question: to strike or not to strike? to vote or not to vote for the Cadets? It is impossible to decide all political questions by canvassing the opinion of all members of the Party: this would involve endless, tiresome and fruitless voting. But the most important questions, and especially those which are directly connected with some definite action by the masses themselves, must, for the sake of democracy, be settled, not only by sending representatives, but also by canvassing the opinion of all members of the Party.
That is why the St. Petersburg Committee resolved that the election of delegates to the conference should take place only after the members of the Party had discussed the question of whether to enter into agreements with the Cadets, only after all members of the Party had voted on that question. An election is an affair in which the masses take a direct part. Socialists consider that the political consciousness of the masses is the main force. Consequently, every member of the Party must express his considered opinion on the question whether or not to vote for the Cadets at the elections. Only after this question has been openly discussed by all the Party members assembled is it possible for each one to adopt an intelligent and firm decision one way or the other. Only on the basis of such a decision can the election of representatives to the conference be, not the result of clannishness, friendship or force of habit (“We will elect our Nikolai Nikolayevich or Ivan Ivanovich!”), but the result of the considered decision of the “rank and file” themselves (i.e., of all the members of the Party) as to their own political conduct.
The elections to the Duma, i. e., the primary and main voting for delegates or electors, will be carried out, not through representatives, but by every voter individually. Consequently, if we want to be socialists in deeds and not only in words, socialists organised in a really democratic workers’ party, then we must see to it that every worker is clear on the question of whether to vote for the Cadets or not. To entrust representation to Ivan Ivanovich, who is an acquaintance of ours, or to Sidor Sidorovich who is a decent fellow, is not enough; the essence of the question at issue must be intelligently examined by the “rank and file”. Only when that is done will the democratic decision be the considered democratic decision of the masses and not only the decision of representatives elected because “we know them”.
The St. Petersburg Committee is the elected leader of the whole Social-Democratic organisation in St. Petersburg and St. Petersburg Gubernia. To lead the membership in a matter like the Duma elections, it was obliged (if it recognised democracy not in words only) to seek the conscious participation of the whole membership in the elections. And in order that the participation of the whole membership in the elections might be conscious and united, it was necessary that not only representatives of the Party, but that every member of the Party should give a definite answer to his St. Petersburg Committee on the question: Does he or does he not stand for agreements with the Cadets?
Such is the significance of the “debate”, that is, of the discussion that took place on the controversial question itself before the election of representatives. At every meeting of Party members, before proceeding to elect representatives to the conference, there had first to be a discussion of the controversial political question. The opinion had to be heard of a representative of the St. Petersburg Committee, i.e., of the leading local body, and also of those who represented other views. After the discussion all the Party members voted whether or not they were in favour of agreements with the Cadets. The votes were counted by a committee of scrutineers, consisting of representatives of both sides (if there were two sides on this question in the Party unit). Only by this procedure could the St. Petersburg Committee ascertain the considered opinion of the whole Party membership, and consequently, be in a position to lead the masses, not blindly, but on the basis of their full understanding of the question.
This explanation was necessary because at the conference disputes arose regarding the “discussion” and the canvass of opinion of all the members of the Party.
That these disputes were uncalled for is the more obvious to Party members for the reason that the Central Committee’s own letter of November 10 regarding the settlement of the question (whether to enter into agreements) by the local organisations definitely recommends “preliminary discussion” of the question by all members of the Party.
Let us now consider the composition of the conference itself. At first, all the representatives elected by the respective organisations were admitted without a verification of the elections (i.e., without verification of “credentials”). There were in all 71 representatives, or delegates, of whom 40 were Bolsheviks and 31 Mensheviks, distributed as follows (by districts).
|Artisans (shop assistants)||4||1||5|
Two Estonian delegates (both Bolsheviks) and one Lettish delegate (Menshevik) were absent. Had they been present, there would have been 42 Bolsheviks and 32 Mensheviks.
Hence it is clear that the Bolsheviks were in the majority from the outset, before the credentials were verified. Consequently, all talk about the Bolsheviks having an “artificial” majority falls to the ground. Complaints that the Bolsheviks did not endorse all the credentials have now been inserted by the Mensheviks even in the bourgeois press. They forgot to inform that press, however, that the Bolsheviks had a majority even before the verification of credentials!
To make the question of who had the majority at the conference even clearer and to settle it once and for all, let us take, not the number of credentials, but the total number of votes cast by members of the Party.
We shall then get the following figures:
|For the Bolsheviks||For the Mensheviks|
|Unchallenged votes . . .||1,848||787|
|Challenged votes . . . .||300||946|
Thus, in all, about 4,000 (3,881) Party members voted. The Bolshevik majority is over 400.
Thus, it is beyond doubt that even if all the challenged votes were regarded as being in order, the Bolsheviks would still have had a large majority. Consequently, the disputes over the validity or invalidity of certain votes had nothing to do with the question of the Bolshevik majority; the dispute was over the question of how to carry out to the full the principle of democratic representation.
Why did the Bolsheviks cancel some of the credentials? Because the challenged credentials could not be recognised as being in order. And irregular credentials cannot be placed on the same footing with regular and unchallenged credentials.
Which credentials were challenged? Those that were not regularly issued; for example, those that were not certified by a committee of scrutineers, those issued without discussion before the voting, or without voting on “platforms” (i.e., where they failed to ask all the voters whether or not they were in favour of agreements with the Cadets). Irregular credentials cannot be regarded as having been democratically issued.
Now the question arises, what was to be done with the challenged credentials? It was impossible to examine each case separately. This would have entailed sitting an extra day, and the conference was pressed for time. It was scarcely able to get through the business by the date on which the workers had to go to elect the delegates (January 7).
There was only one way out: to raise the “basis of representation” for all the challenged credentials, i.e., to count them at the rate of one representative for every 75 votes instead of one for every 50. This method was adopted for three reasons: (1) it did away with arbitrariness and mutual irritation in estimating individual challenged credentials; (2) it put the challenged credentials on both sides on the same footing; (3) it was based on a decision taken by the St. Petersburg Committee long before the conference—namely: the St. Petersburg Committee had decided, in cases where it was quite impossible to conduct democratic elections to a conference (e.g., where it was impossible to call meetings owing to police restrictions), to admit representatives who were elected not quite democratically, but in such cases to raise the basis of representation, i.e., to allow, not one delegate per 50 members, but one per 75, per 100, and so on.
Now take the number of challenged and unchallenged votes. If we take the unchallenged votes, counting one delegate per 50 votes, we get 37 Bolsheviks and 16 Mensheviks. If we take the challenged votes, counting one delegate per 75 votes, we get 4 Bolsheviks and 12 Mensheviks. The total is 41 Bolsheviks (plus one from the military organisation, where democratic elections were impossible) and 28 Mensheviks.
The 70 credentials finally endorsed were distributed by districts as follows:
|Artisans (shop assistants)||4||–||4|
Hence it is plain that complaints about the composition of the conference are quite groundless. Of course, if you shout to an uninformed public about the rejection of the credentials of this person and about the disqualification of that person, you may for a moment create an impression, if the public does no consider the matter carefully. But this is mere wrangling, not controversy.
One need only examine all the facts relating to the composition of the conference to see clearly that there was nothing arbitrary in raising the basis of representation for all the challenged votes. After all, i was not by mere chance that 2,635 votes were entirely unchallenged and only 1,246 were challenged! And it cannot be seriously maintained that the bulk of the challenged votes were challenged at random without any grounds whatever!
Only think, for instance, what it means to vote “with out a platform”, as the Mensheviks have done so often (which is the very reason why nearly 1,000 of their votes were challenged). It means that no all the members of the Party are asked whether they are in favour of agreements with the Cadets or against them. The election of delegates takes place without such a canvass of opinion, or without a platform. It means that the conference has no means of knowing exactly the opinion of the Party members! It means that the membership itself is not consulted on a controversial question (involving the action of the rank and file). Can irregularities be avoided under such circumstances?
Can a sincere advocate of democracy in organisation defend such a method of voting? Democracy does not mean that the masses must trust their individual representatives because they know them; it means that the masses themselves must vote intelligently on the substance of the very important questions at issue.
Finally, complaints about the composition of the conference must be regarded as groundless for the additional reason that a number of similar conferences have been held in St. Petersburg recently. A year ago there was a conference on the question of the boycott. The Bolsheviks obtained a majority. In the period of the First Duma there was a conference on the question of supporting the demand for a Duma (i.e., Cadet) Cabinet. The Bolsheviks obtained a majority.
Is it not ridiculous to say now that the Bolshevik majority on the question of electoral agreements with the Cadets could be an accidental one?
II. The Question of Dividing the Conference[edit source]
The Central Committee of the Party, in which the Mensheviks predominate, demanded that the St. Petersburg Conference should divide into two: a City Conference and a Gubernia Conference. The Mensheviks try to justify their walking out of the conference on the grounds that this demand was not complied with.
Let us see whether this demand was in keeping with the Party Rules, whether it was binding on the conference, and whether it was practicable.
The Rules of our Party very definitely establish the democratic organisation of the Party. The whole organisation is built from below upwards, on an elective basis. The Party Rules declare that the local organisations are independent (autonomous) in their local activities. According to the Rules, the Central Committee co-ordinates and directs all the work of the Party. Hence it is clear that it has no right to interfere in determining the composition of local organisations. Since the organisation is built from below upwards, interference in its composition from above would be a flagrant breach of democracy and of the Party Rules. Let us assume that an organisation, for one reason or an other, combines heterogeneous sections, for instance, a city and a gubernia. Under a democratic system, this combination cannot be maintained (or prescribed) by orders from above. Consequently, it can be broken up only if this is desired from below: the city can separate from the gubernia, and no one can forbid it to do so. The gubernia can separate from the city, and no one can forbid it to do so. If no at all large, or at all distinct, part of an organisation has expressed a desire to separate, it means that the Central Committee has been unable to convince a single influential part of the organisation that separation is necessary! That being the case, to force a division from above is a mockery of democracy, a mockery of the Party Rules. It signifies nothing more nor less than an attempt on the part of the Central Committee to abuse its powers, i.e., to use them, not in the interests of Party unity, but in the interests of one section of the Party (the Mensheviks)—to use its powers to distort the will and the decisions of the local workers.
The Central Committee was so conscious of the fact that its demand was unwarranted that in its written general order it expressed itself very guardedly. In it the Central Committee recommends all Party organisations “as far as possible” (this is the literal expression!) to adapt their boundaries to accord with the boundaries of the electoral districts. There can be no question of such advice being binding; and nobody claimed that it was. That the Central Committee had some special object in view in regard to St. Petersburg is evident from the fact that it made no such demand for a division of the conference in any other city in Russia. For instance, in Wilno, the city conference embraces Social-Democrats representing enterprises situated outside the city boundaries, i.e., in another electoral district. The Central Committee did not even think of raising the question of dividing the Wilno Conference!
In Odessa also there was a joint conference, although there, too, some of the factories that were represented are situated outside the city police area. In fact, can one mention a single large city where the organisation corresponds to the police division into city and part of the gubernia? Can anyone seriously claim that in the big cities, in the centres of the Social-Democratic workers’ movement, the suburbs where the biggest factories are sometimes situated, the most proletarian “suburbs” should be separated? This is such a gross mockery of common sense that only those who are most unscrupulously seeking a pretext for a split could seize upon it.
We have only to look at the districts of St. Petersburg to see that the demand to divide the conference was impracticable. To divide an organisation in general, or a conference in particular, into two parts, one for the city and one for the gubernia, it is necessary either to know the address of every member of the Party, or have ready-made Party units, branches and districts organised on a territorial basis, i.e., districts formed according to the place of residence of Party members, or the situation of factories in the various police districts.
But we see that in St. Petersburg (as probably in most cities in Russia) the districts, sub-districts and lower Party units are organised, not only on a territorial (local) basis but also on an occupational basis (according to the trade and occupation of the workers, and of the population in general) and on a national basis (different nationalities, different languages).
For instance, in St. Petersburg there is a railway district. This district is organised on an occupational basis. How could it be divided into a city section and a gubernia section? According to the place of residence of every individual railwayman: St. Petersburg, Kolpino, and other stations? Or according to the location of the railway trains, which, unfortunately for our Central Committee, have a habit of moving from place to place, from the “city” of St. Petersburg into the “gubernia”, and even into other gubernias?
Try to divide the Lettish district! And then there is the Estonian district and the military organisation.
Even the territorial districts cannot be divided. The workers at the conference said so themselves. A worker from Moscow District got up and said: I know factories in our district which are not far from the city boundaries. At the end of the day’s work you can see at a glance that part of the workers make for the “city” and others for the “gubernia”. How are we going to divide them? And the workers simply laughed at the Central Committee’s proposal.
Only very naive people can fail to see the underlying purpose of the whole business. Only very naive people can say: still, we ought to have tried to divide, “approximately”, “as far as possible”.
If it were done approximately, it would, to some extent, have been an arbitrary division, for it would have been impossible to divide the Lettish, railway and other districts exactly. But every arbitrary decision would have evoked new, interminable protests and complaints; it would have called forth new orders from the Central Committee, and would have provided any number of new pretexts for splits. Look at the list of districts (given above) and you will see that some people might have declared that only four districts are purely and indubitably city districts: the Vasilyev sky Ostrov, City, Vyborg and Petersburg districts. Why only these? Because there the Mensheviks would have had a majority. On what grounds could such an arbitrary decision be justified?
And how could the Central Committee justify its arbitrary conduct in not even thinking of dividing Wilno, yet demanding that St. Petersburg should be divided? If you pro test against arbitrary action, who will finally settle your dispute? Why, this very same Central Committee....
Even the most naïve people will now understand that the complaints about the composition of the conference and about its refusal to divide are simply a blind. The sum and substance of the matter is that the Mensheviks decided not to submit to the majority of the St. Petersburg organisation, and to bring about a split on the eve of the elections in order to desert the socialist workers for the Cadets.
III. What is the Significance of the Menshevik Walk-Out at the Conference?[edit source]
Some readers may think that the conclusion we have drawn is too drastic. We, however, think that it is unworthy of a socialist to conceal or blur the truth concerning a serious political matter. We must call a spade a spade. We must expose all subterfuges and pretences, so that the mass of the workers may clearly understand what is going on. Only bourgeois parties regard elections as a game played behind the scenes and a division of the spoils. A workers’ party, however, must first of all help the people clearly to understand the relations between the parties, to understand their own interests and the objects of the struggle, to understand what is going on behind the scenes.
We have seen that the complaints about the composition of the conference of the St. Petersburg organisation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, about its refusal to divide, were mere evasions. We know that the real issue is a simple one. The Mensheviks wanted an agreement with the Cadets at all costs. The Mensheviks knew that the majority of the members of the St. Petersburg organisation did not share that view. At the All-Russian Conference the Mensheviks decided to abide by the decision of the local organisation in each locality. Now they have broken their promise and are trying to achieve their objects by means of a split.
Today (January 13) the 31 Mensheviks who walked out of the conference have already declared in the St. Petersburg newspapers that they have made proposals for a bloc to the Cadets and to all the Trudovik parties; not only to the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Trudoviks (with whom the conference offered to make an agreement), but also to the “Popular Socialists”.
So the matter is perfectly clear. The class-conscious proletariat has decided to conduct an independent election campaign. The petty bourgeoisie (including the Trudoviks) is vacillating, rushing from one side to another; it is quite capable of preferring a deal with the Cadets to a struggle based on principles. The Mensheviks are the petty-bourgeois section of the workers’ party. At the very last moment, on the flimsiest pretexts, they are abandoning the revolutionary proletariat and going over to the Cadets.
That this conclusion is right is best confirmed by the Cadet newspapers. No one will suspect the Cadets of being in sympathy with the views of the St. Petersburg, i.e., the Bolshevik Social-Democrats!
Look at Rech, the central organ of the Cadet Party. Everybody knows perfectly well that Rech, in unison with Tovarishch, has been constantly egging the Mensheviks on to a split, and seeking every opportunity to praise them, care fully distinguishing them from the Bolsheviks. As soon as it became known that the Mensheviks had walked out of the Social-Democratic conference, Rech (January 11) published an editorial entitled: “The Social-Democratic Conference and Agreements”. This article openly applauds the “determination” of the Mensheviks and welcomes the split which they have initiated. This article openly declares that “outside the bloc of the revolutionary parties in the narrow sense of the word” (i.e., the St. Petersburg Social-Democrats and those to whom they have made proposals for an agreement, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Committee of the Trudovik Group) there remain the Mensheviks and the Popular Socialists (the most moderate and semi-Cadet of all the petty-bourgeois Trudovik parties).
And the Cadets say outright that they are prepared to “resume” negotiations with “both these moderate socialist parties”. They say outright that “the differentiation [division] which has taken place among the socialist parties promises to bring the ideas of the moderate socialists on Duma tactics somewhat closer to our own [i.e., Cadet] ideas on this subject”.
Coming from the leading Cadet newspaper, this statement is extremely important. The Cadets not only appreciate the practical results of the Menshevik change of front. They see clearly that the split engineered by the Mensheviks is of fundamental significance, i.e., that this split in fact will change the attitude of the Mensheviks towards the fundamental concepts of the political struggle and the tasks of the working class. The Cadets understand perfectly well that the Mensheviks have veered, not only towards accepting agreements in practice, but also towards the fundamental views of the bourgeoisie; that they have departed from the proletarian policy and have approached the bourgeois policy. Rech plainly states that the moderate socialists (that is to say, the Mensheviks) are approaching the Cadet tactics, are actually recognising Cadet priority and leadership. Al though they do not yet know whether the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Trudoviks will accept the proposal of the Social-Democratic conference, the Cadets are already reckoning with a very definite alignment of political forces: the liberal bourgeoisie will lead the moderate petty bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeois section of the proletariat; the revolutionary proletariat will act independently, and draw with it, at best (best for us, worst for the Cadets) only a part of the petty bourgeoisie.
This is how the Cadets depict the situation. And it cannot be denied that in this respect the Cadets are quite right. As the sun is reflected in a drop of water, so the small episode in St. Petersburg reflects the constant relationship between the policies of the liberal bourgeoisie, the working class and the petty bourgeoisie that inevitably characterises all capitalist countries. Everywhere and at all times the liberal bourgeoisie tries to bribe the uneducated masses with sops in order to divert them from revolutionary Social- Democracy. The Cadets are beginning to apply in Russia the “English” bourgeois method of fighting the proletariat, i. e., not by violence, but by bribing, flattering, dividing and cajoling the “moderates”, by making them Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, electors, etc.
The meaning of the phrase in the Cadet Rech about “resumption” of negotiations is also clear enough. When the Social-Democrats were united and the revolutionary Social-Democrats were predominant among them, the negotiations were broken off. Now that “both the moderate socialist par ties” have broken away from the revolution, the Cadets declare: “negotiations may be resumed”.
If the reader is not quite clear as to what these words mean in practice, we will explain them to him. The Cadets offered two seats (out of six) to the Lefts, namely: one seat to the workers’ curia and one to the socialists generally. The negotiations were broken off. Now the Cadets are inviting the “moderate socialists” again: “Come back, Mr. Customer, perhaps we can come to terms. We will give one seat to the Mensheviks and another to the ’Popular Socialists’, or, in a fit of generosity, we will even give you three seats.”
That is what the Cadets mean by “resumption” of negotiations: we made no concessions to the Lefts; but we are willing to make concessions to the moderate Lefts!
Persons who are naive or politically inexperienced may shake their heads, express doubt, sympathise, etc., as much as they like; it will not alter matters. After all, it is not how a certain result was obtained that is important, it is the result itself that is important (i.e., for the Cadets it is not important, but for the masses of the workers who wish to adopt an intelligent attitude towards politics, it is very important).
We do not know exactly how the negotiations between the Mensheviks and the Cadets were conducted—whether in writing, or by word of mouth, or by mere hints. It is possible that prominent moderate Mensheviks simply hinted to the Cadet leaders that a split was likely among the Social-Democrats, hinted that they would agree to agreements on a district basis. And the Cadets, of course, were quick to take the hint: “they” will split the St. Petersburg Social-Democrats, and we will include “them” in the district election list! “They” will help us, and we will help “them”. Is this deal less effective, business-like and definite than if “they” had gone straight to Kutler, Milyukov or Nabokov and said in plain words: We will split the St. Petersburg Conference of the Social-Democratic Party for you, and you will help us to get elected on some district list?
It is a fact that this is precisely the policy that is pursued by the bourgeois liberals and the opportunist Social-Democrats in all constitutional countries. The Russian workers must learn to understand this policy if they do not want to be led by the nose. Chernyshevsky said in his day: “Those who are afraid of soiling their hands had better keep away from politics.” Those who take part in the elections and are afraid of soiling their hands in turning up the muck of bourgeois politics had better get out. Kid-gloved simpletons only do harm in politics by their fear of facing facts.
Another statement in the bourgeois press that fully con firms our estimate of the split is that made by Madame Kuskova in Tovarishch (January 10). She, too, welcomes the Mensheviks, incites them to bring about an irrevocable split, advises them not to “compromise” with the Bolsheviks, and promises them the assistance of the Rabocheye Dyelo group.
To understand Madame Kuskova’s article, one must know who she is. We will say who she is, as the majority of the workers do not know her.
The Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party was founded in 1898. In 1899 Madame Kuskova and M. Prokopovich were members of the Party, to be exact, members of the section abroad, which was led by Plekhanov, at that time a revolutionary Social-Democrat. Madame Kuskova, however, was then, as now, an opportunist; she advocated petty-bourgeois views in the Social-Democratic movement and championed Bernsteinism, which, in the final analysis, means subordinating the working class to the policy of the liberals. Madame Kuskova expressed her views most clearly in the celebrated Credo (which means a symbol of faith, a programme, an ex position of world-outlook). This Credo said the following: “The workers must conduct the economic struggle, and the liberals the political struggle.” The Rabocheye Dyelo people (as the opportunists in the Social-Democratic movement were then called) were substantially inclined to take the same view. Plekhanov declared a war to the knife against these views (in which he was assisted by the Russian revolutionary Social-Democrats), and on this issue split the section of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party abroad. He wrote a pamphlet entitled Vademecum (a Guide for the Rabocheye Dyelo people), in opposition to the opportunists, especially Madame Kuskova.
Madame Kuskova was expelled from the Social-Democratic Party. With Prokopovich, she went over to the liberals, the Cadets. Later on she left the Cadets as well, and became a “non—party” writer for the “non—party” Cadet newspaper Tovarishch.
Madame Kuskova is not an isolated case. She is a typical specimen of the petty-bourgeois intellectual, who imports opportunism into the workers’ party and wanders from the Social-Democrats to the Cadets, from the Cadets to the Mensheviks, and so forth.
These are the people who are beating the drum and cheering in honour of the split that the Mensheviks are causing among the Social-Democrats in St. Petersburg.
These are the people to whom the workers who follow the Mensheviks are handing over the cause of the proletariat.
IV. The Political Parties and the Forthcoming Elections in St. Petersburg[edit source]
How do matters stand now with the elections in St. Petersburg?
It is clear now that there will be three main lists at the elections: the Black-Hundred list, the Cadet list, and the Social-Democratic list.
The first will be supported by the Octobrists; the second, probably, by the Mensheviks and the Popular Socialists; the third, perhaps, by the Trudoviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, although it is quite possible that these vacillating parties, which have not given a definite answer, so far, will also follow the Cadets (partly owing to the split among the Social-Democrats).
Is there a Black-Hundred danger in St. Petersburg, i.e., a danger of the Black Hundreds winning the elections? The Mensheviks, who are now going over from the socialists to the Cadets, say that there is.
They are telling a downright lie.
Even in the Cadet Rech, that cautious, diplomatic news paper, which protects the interests of the liberals in every detail, even in Rech we read in an article by Mr. Vergezhsky that at the election meetings the Octobrists are entirely in the background and that the voters are wavering between the Cadets and the socialists.
All the information we get about the election meetings and about the impression created by the Lidval case, the trial of the murderers of Herzenstein, the exposures of Black-Hundred outrages, etc., clearly shows that the Right parties enjoy no respect among the voters.
Those who still talk about a Black-Hundred danger in the elections are deceiving themselves and deceiving the masses of the workers. It is now obvious that the cry about the Black-Hundred danger is a Cadet attempt to gain the support of the ignorant masses.
The Black-Hundred danger does not lie in a Black-Hundred vote, but in the possibility that the government will resort to violence, in the possible arrest of electors, etc. The remedy for this danger is not agreements with the Cadets, but the development of the revolutionary consciousness and the revolutionary determination of the masses. And it is the Cadets who more than anyone else are hindering the development of this consciousness and this determination.
The really important fight in St. Petersburg is that between the Cadets and the Social-Democrats. The Trudovik parties have proved their weakness by following the most moderate and semi-Cadet “Popular Socialist Party”, and also by the fact that they are not displaying any independence or firmness at all.
If the Mensheviks had not betrayed the socialists on the eve of the elections, there is no doubt that the Trudoviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries would have accepted our terms. There is no doubt that the balk of the voters, who in St. Petersburg, as everywhere, are poor people, would have followed the socialists and the Trudoviks, not the Cadets. The elections in St. Petersburg would then have had the significance of a major battle, which would clearly and definitely have put before the whole of Russia the fundamental questions of the future of the Russian revolution.
The treachery of the Mensheviks makes our election campaign more difficult, but this increases the importance in principle of an independent Social-Democratic campaign. The proletariat does not have, and cannot have, any other means of combating the vacillation of the petty bourgeoisie than that of developing the class-consciousness and solidarity of the masses, of training them through experience of political development.
While the Trudoviks are wavering and the Mensheviks are haggling, we must throw all our energies into independent agitation. Let everyone know that the Social-Democrats are putting forward their own list without fail, under all circumstances. And let all the poor sections of voters know that the choice before them is between the Cadets and the socialists.
The voters must ponder over this choice. At all events, this reflection will help very much to develop the political consciousness of the masses, which is of far greater importance than obtaining a seat for X or Y from the Cadets. If the masses of the urban poor are taken in once more by the promises of the Cadets, if they are carried away once more by the clamour of liberal phrase-mongering and liberal promises of “peaceful” progress and “peaceful” legislation by Gurko, and Kutler and Milyukov—events will soon shatter their last illusions.
The revolutionary Social-Democrats must tell the masses the whole truth and unswervingly pursue their own path. All those who cherish the real gains achieved in the Russian revolution by proletarian struggle, all who possess the instinct of those who work and are exploited, will follow the party of the proletariat. And the correctness of this party’s views will become clearer and clearer to the masses with every new stage in the development of the Russian revolution.
The leading article in Rech of January 14 further confirms what we have said above concerning the significance of the Menshevik desertion from the socialists to the side of the bourgeoisie. Rech is jubilant at the fulfilment of its prediction, at the fact that the Mensheviks are breaking away in St. Petersburg and setting up their own organisation. “That is exactly what happened,” says the newspaper, referring to what it had said in previous issues. “A section of the Social-Democratic Party, not the most influential, but the one that is most inclined to parliamentary activity, has fallen in with our proposals.”
Yes, it is true. The Mensheviks have fallen in with the desire of the liberal bourgeoisie to split off the opportunist section of the workers’ party and to subordinate it to the leadership of the Cadets. We have seen above that Rech has already separated the Mensheviks and the Popular Socialists from the revolutionary parties, calling them “moderate socialists”. Now Rech has gone a step further. It says that the Popular Socialists, too, will probably prefer a bloc with the Cadets. It states: “The Mensheviks have definitely fallen in with the proposal to form a general opposition bloc.” “It must be admitted that the possibility of an opposition bloc of the Cadets, Mensheviks and Popular Socialists has become considerably greater since the Bolsheviks rejected the proposal.”
Thus, the Cadets themselves have now admitted that there are three blocs, or at any rate three main political forces, in the elections: the government bloc, the opposition bloc and the revolutionary bloc. This division is quite correct. We note that force of circumstances is compelling the Cadets to recognise what we have long and persistently pointed out. We also note that so tar the only ones in the revolutionary “bloc” who are resolute and determined are the revolutionary Social-Democrats. The other elements, and in particular the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie (the “Socialist-Revolutionaries”), are still wavering.
The significance in principle of the Menshevik desertion to the Cadets is becoming more and more apparent. The fine words of the Menshevik election platforms and of the statements of principle in their resolutions (for instance, at the All-Russian Social-Democratic Conference), the declarations that they would shatter the illusions about the peaceful method, that they were advising the voters to send fighters to the Duma and not petitioners, and so on and so forth—all these words have turned out to be mere words. Actually, the Mensheviks have allowed themselves to be dragged along by the Cadets, by Cadet policy. Actually, the Mensheviks have found themselves in the “opposition bloc”, in other words, they have become a mere appendage of the Cadets.
More than that, the leading article in Rech of January 14 reveals also the price the Cadets intend to pay the Mensheviks for supporting them and joining the opposition bloc. This price is one seat in the Duma, to be taken from the workers’ curia. Listen:
“Since this [i.e., the formation of an opposition bloc of the Cadets, Mensheviks and Popular Socialists] has reduced the number of claimants for the Duma seats, it may be possible, by a new arrangement, to accept the proposal of the party of people’s freedom and content ourselves with two seats out of the six. Now, of course, it will in all probability be necessary to amend this proposal somewhat. After the decision of the conference, the seat that was intended for the person elected by the workers’ curia can obviously no longer be given to a Bolshevik worker. In view of the new composition of the bloc the Mensheviks might legitimately regard that seat as theirs. The other seat out of the two ceded by the party of people’s freedom would in that case go to the Popular-Socialist bloc.”
A fine stroke of business! We can congratulate the Cadets on their bargain! For the same two “ceded” seats they acquire all the petty-bourgeois parties, as well as the petty-bourgeois section of the workers’ party—and that at the expense of the workers!
The workers are to lose their right to a representative from the workers’ curia because the Mensheviks have deserted the Social-Democrats and have become a moderate socialist party (in the estimation of Rech), have joined the opposition bloc. The workers of St. Petersburg are to lose the right allowed them by the Cadets of disposing of their seat as they please because the Mensheviks instead of following the revolutionary Social-Democrats, have followed the Cadets. For their “little deal” with the Cadets the Mensheviks receive a “small concession”, not at the expense of the Cadets, but at the expense of the workers.... What a magnificent specimen of bourgeois concessions to “the people”! The bourgeoisie is prepared to give seats to the champions of “the people”, providing these champions go over to the bourgeoisie....
The delegates and electors in the workers’ curia will undoubtedly see now what advantages, in practice as well as in principle, they will derive from an agreement with the Cadets. It is clear, is it not, that the Cadets have offered (not given, but offered) one seat to the workers’ curia out of sincere sympathy with real freedom really for the people, and not because they want to entice the ignorant, needy masses to the side of the bourgeoisie?
- Some say that the election of a representative can take place on the basis of knowing the representative’s views, even without a vote being taken on the question at issue. But this is true only as regards the totality of the views held by that representative. It cannot apply when a special question affecting the action of the masses themselves is involved. The refusal to vote on a platform (for blocs with the Cadets or against them) would, under such circumstances, imply that the voter’s views were vague, that he was irresolute, that he was not quite in agreement with his representative.—Lenin
- This figure includes 185 votes which the conference decided were quite in order. If these are not counted, the number of unchallenged votes will he 1,663.—Lenin
- Chernyshevsky, N. C. (1828-89)—the great Russian revolutionary democrat, materialist philosopher and writer.
Lenin is referring to Chernyshevsky’s work Carey’s Letters on Political Economy to the President of the United States of America.
- Lidval case—the case of B. Lidval, big businessman and speculator, and V. I. Gurko—Deputy Minister of the Interior. With Gurko’s assistance Lidval made a deal with the government to supply during October-December 1900, 10,000,000 poods of rye to the famine-stricken provinces of Russia. Lidval received a large sum of government funds from Gurko as advance payment but by mid-December 1906 had brought up to the railways less than one-tenth of the total amount of grain. The discovery of the embezzlement of government funds and speculation on the famine became common knowledge and the government was forced to bring the matter to the courts. But the case never came to trial and the only result for Gurko was that he was removed from his post. Lidval case helped to expose the anti-popular policy of the tsarist government, and to bring about the failure of the Right-wing parties in the elections to the Second State Duma.
- Lenin is referring to the tsarist government’s farcical trial of the murderers of M. Y. Herzenstein, a Cadet member of the First State Duma (killed by Black-Hundred agents in Finland on July 18 (31), 1906). In spite of the fact that wide circles of the public knew who were responsible for the murder, the tsarist government did every thing to prevent the murderers from being convicted. The investigation was deliberately dragged out, the trial was several times postponed and finally, on April 3 (16), 1907, the case was dropped.
- An interesting event in this connection was the meeting of voters held in Kolomna the other day. The “Trudovik” Vodovozov (who, apparently, became a Trudovik only for the purpose of harnessing the Trudoviks to the Cadets) proposed and secured the adoption of a resolution in favour of giving the Cadets two seats out of six in a general bloc of Left parties. What simplicity! Before one can offer the smaller share of seats, one must win first, Mr. Vodovozov, and not trail behind the Cadets! But even such a meeting, with such a “chorus leader”, showed by the way it voted that the masses are inclined more to the Left than the Cadets. We are obliged to put before these masses the alternative: either for the liberal bourgeoisie, or for the revolutionary proletariat.—Lenin