The Workers' Party Election Campaign in St. Petersburg
|Written||14 January 1907|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 426-430
The St. Petersburg organisation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party has held its third (in the past year) general conference. The first conference, February 1906, decided the question whether or not to participate in the elections to the Witte Duma. The second, June 1906, decided the question whether the demand for a Duma Cabinet should be supported. The third, January 1907, decided the question of the Second Duma election campaign.
The bourgeois parties settle big political questions from case to case by a simple ruling of one or other party “authority”, which secretly concocts various political nostrums for the people. Only the workers’ Social-Democratic Party actually practises democracy in organisation, in spite of the enormous difficulties—and even heavy, sacrifices—which this entails for an illegal party. Only the workers’ Social-Democratic Party weighs the importance in principle of every major political step before it decides to take it. It does not strive for ephemeral success, but subordinates its practical policy to the ultimate goal—the complete emancipation of labour from all exploitation. Only the workers’ party, when marching to battle, demands from all its members a well-considered, straight and clear answer to the question whether a certain step should be taken and how it should be taken.
The last conference of the St. Petersburg organisation. too, was based on the democratic representation of all the members of the Party. Moreover, the delegates had to b elected on the basis of a canvass of opinion of all the electors on the question of agreements with the Cadets. Without an intelligent answer to this topical question of tactics, the democratic procedure of electing delegates to the conference would have been idle play, unworthy of the proletariat.
Here is the resolution adopted by the Conference:
In view of the fact: (1) that it is absolutely obligatory for the Social-Democratic Party, as the class party of the proletariat, to conduct its election campaign independently in all cases where no special and exceptional circumstances are present; (2) that hitherto the St. Peters burg Social-Democrats, headed by the St. Petersburg Committee, have been conducting an entirely independent election campaign, influencing all sections of the working population, both those who adopt a consistent proletarian standpoint and those who have not fully mastered it; (3) that at the present time, two weeks before the elections, it is already evident that in St. Petersburg the chances of the parties on the right are very slight, while those of the Cadets are considered (mainly owing to tradition) to be strong, so that it is particularly imperative for the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party to exert every effort to break the hegemony of the Cadets in the metropolis, on which the attention of the whole of Russia is concentrated; (4) that large sections of the poorer working people in the city who do not yet adhere to the proletarian standpoint, and whose vote can influence the result of the elections in the city curia, are vacillating between the desire to vote to the Left of the Cadets, i.e., to free themselves from the leadership of the treacherous liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie, and the desire to secure at least a few Trudovik deputies in the Duma by entering into a bloc with the Cadets; (5) that the wavering Trudovik parties reveal a desire to sanction a bloc with the Cadets on condition of obtaining one, or at any rate not more than two out of the six seats in the metropolis, on the grounds that the Social-Democrats refuse under any circumstances to enter into an agreement with the non-Social-Democratic sections of the urban poor against the liberal bourgeoisie—the Conference resolves: (1) immediately to inform the St. Petersburg Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party and the Committee of the Trudovik Group that the St. Petersburg Committee of the RSDLP is prepared to enter into an agreement with them on condition that they enter into no agreements whatsoever with the Cadets; (2) the terms of the agreement to be complete independence of the contracting parties as regards slogans, programmes and tactics generally. The six seats in the Duma to be distributed as follows: two seats for the workers’ curia, two for the Social-Democrats, one for the Socialist-Revolutionaries and one for the Trudoviks; (3) the Conference authorises its executive body to conduct the negotiations; (4) that in St. Petersburg Gubernia local agreements with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Trudoviks are permitted on the same principles.
Note: In regard to the P.S. Party (the Trudovik or Popular Socialist Party) it is resolved: in view of that party’s evasive position on the fundamental questions of the struggle outside the Duma, the Conference sanctions agreements with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Trudoviks provided that they have no agreement with the P.S. Party.
Three main points stand out in examining this resolution: firstly, categorical renunciation of all agreements with the Cadets; secondly, inflexible determination of the Social-Democrats to put forward its independent lists under all circumstances; and, thirdly, sanction of agreements with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Trudoviks.
To reject agreements with the Cadets was the plain duty of the workers’ party. As soon as the election meetings began in St. Petersburg it at once became clear to all that the revolutionary Social-Democrats were right when they said: our liberals have been humbugging ignorant people who have no definite principles with their cries about the Black-Hundred danger in order to avert the real danger threatening them from the left. The petty police tricks of the government, cheating the poor voters out of their votes with the aid of Senate interpretations have failed to change the mood of the mass of the voters (whether there will be 100, 120 or 150 thousand voters, makes no difference). And this mood of the masses is being clearly manifested at meetings as a mood that is to the left of the Cadets.
Of course, the Black-Hundred danger may not lie in the mass of the electorate voting Black Hundred, but in the arrest of Left voters and electors by the Black-Hundred police. There are persistent rumours that the present relative “freedom” (in Russia if a person is allowed to breathe it is called freedom!) of election meetings is a trap laid by the government, which intends to arrest prominent speakers and electors. But it is quite easy to understand that to combat this Black-Hundred danger we need, not blocs with the Cadets, but the preparedness of the masses to engage in a struggle that will go beyond the bounds of so-called parliamentarism.
Secondly, the Conference decided, as was to be expected, that in the metropolis the Social-Democrats will conduct their campaign independently under any circumstances. They may offer to enter into an agreement with another party in one form or another; but we were prepared for complete independence before, and are ready for it now. Taking the election campaign as a whole, an agreement under such circumstances will in fact be an exception; the independence of the Social-Democrats will be the rule.
Thirdly, the Conference offered to enter into an agreement with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Trudoviks on condition that they kept aloof from the Cadets and the pro-Cadet Popular Socialists, and on the further condition that the workers’ curia is given two seats and that the four remaining seats are divided equally.
This proposal is based on the principle of discriminating between parties according to their attitude towards the struggle outside the Duma, which tomorrow may become an immediate question. By making their pacts with other parties conditional upon the observance of certain principles the Social-Democrats provide ammunition for mass agitation and propaganda on the true character of the various parties. The Social-Democrats take into account the peculiarities of the situation in St. Petersburg, where the mass of the “Trudovik-inclined” urban petty bourgeoisie are led in tow by the Cadets. Under such conditions we cannot neglect the task of breaking this hegemony of the Cadets, of helping the working people to take a step forward —a small step, it is true, but one of unquestionable political importance— a step towards a more determined struggle, towards clearer political ideas, towards more definite class-consciousness.
And this result we shall achieve by our agitation, by our whole procedure in conducting the election campaign; and we shall achieve it whatever the answer of the Trudoviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries to our offer may be. There is no need for us to go into all sorts of calculations to ascertain the probability of an affirmative or a negative answer. Our attention must not be concentrated on this. The important thing for us is the fundamental policy of the proletariat, which remains unchanged in the face of various specific possibilities: to the deceptive illusions of peaceful struggle and constitutional toys we counterpose a clear analysis of the tasks of the struggle outside the Duma, a struggle that the course of events is bringing ever nearer. We say to the petty-bourgeois sections of the urban and rural working people: there is only one thing that can prevent the instability and vacillation of the small proprietors, and that is an independent class party of the revolutionary proletariat.
- The conference of the St. Petersburg organisation of the RSDLP, which discussed the question of election tactics during the elections to the Second State Duma, was held on January 6 (19), 1907. Lenin delivered a report on electoral agreements during the elections. An account of his speech was printed in No. 12 of the Bolshevik newspaper Proletary on January 25 (February 7), 1907.
After the discussion of the report the conference confirmed the resolution (“A Dissenting Opinion”) of 14 delegates at the November All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP Lenin gave a detailed analysis of the work of the St. Petersburg Conference and of the conditions under which it was convened in the pamphlets: The Social-Democrats and the Duma Elections, “When You Hear the Judgement of a Fool , (From the Notes of a Social-Democratic Publicist) (see pp. 431-55, 456-74 of this volume).