V. I.   Lenin

The Social-Democrats and the Duma Elections



The Political Parties and the Forthcoming Elections in St. Petersburg

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,[2] the trial of the murderers of Herzenstein,[3] 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.[1]

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.



[1] 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

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

  What is the Significance of the Menshevik Walk-Out at the Conference? | Postscript  

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