V. I.   Lenin

The Campaign for the Elections to the Fourth Duma



In the preceding article (Zvezda, No. 34) we discussed the role of the worker electors in the election campaign. The long and the short of our reflections was that working-class democrats are faced by a vital twofold task—to unite the class of wage-workers, developing their class—consciousness, their understanding of the great historical objectives of their class, and then to organise the forces of democracy.[1]

Let us now examine the question of non-proletarian, i.e., bourgeois, democracy. What is its principal class basis in Russia? What are its specific features, its immediate tasks? What is its role in the elections?

The principal class support for Russian bourgeois democracy is the peasantry. The condition of the great bulk of the peasantry is so burdensome, the oppression of the landowners so heavy, the economic conditions so desperately bad, and its lack of civil rights so extraordinarily great, that democratic feelings and desires are springing up among them with an elusive spontaneous inevitability. The way out of the situation which the bourgeois liberals (with the Cadet Party at their head) picture to themselves—the sharing of power with the Purishkeviches, the joint rule of the Purishkeviches and the Guchkovs (or the Milyukovs) over the masses—cannot satisfy the peasant millions. That is why the class position of the peasantry, on the one hand, and of the big bourgeoisie, on the other, inevitably creates a wide gulf between democrats and liberals.

As a rule, neither of the two political trends is clearly defined, neither is a fully conscious one, but it is a fact that the peasants gravitate towards democracy, the bourgeoisie towards monarchist liberalism; this was proved to the hilt during the extremely eventful first decade of the twentieth century in Russia. Not only did the peasant masses display their democracy in the liberation movement of 1905, and in the First and Second Dumas, but even in the nobility-dominated Third Duma; forty-three peasant deputies, including Rights and independents, introduced an agrarian bill   which was more democratic than that introduced by the Cadets.

In general, the land problem is the main problem of the Russian peasantry today. Less than 30, 000 landowners in European Russia possess 70 million dessiatines of land, and practically the same amount is held by 10 million poor peasant households. On the one hand, an average of 2,300 dessiatines per farm; on the other, an average of seven dessiatines. At the present level of Russia’s historical development, this could lead to but one economic result—the most widespread practice of all sorts of “labour-service” economy, that is to say, of survivals of the old corvée system. Peasants held in bondage, poverty such as has not been seen in Europe for many years, and periodic famines reminiscent of the Middle Ages, are consequences of this state of affairs.

The Cadet bourgeoisie seeks to settle the agrarian problem in a liberal fashion, so as to preserve the landed estates, selling part of the land to the peasantry at “a fair price”, and giving the landowners the upper hand over the peasants in the bodies effecting the “reform”. Naturally, the peasants would certainly prefer a democratic solution of the agrarian problem. This democratic solution, even if all the land is transferred to the peasants without compensation, does not and cannot in the least encroach on the foundations of capitalist society—the power of money, commodity production, and the domination of the market. The peasants, for the most part, have a rather hazy idea of the matter and the Narodniks have created a complete ideology, a whole doctrine, which gave that haze something of a “socialist” hue, although there is nothing socialist even in the most radical agrarian revolution.

But, in practice, as the peasant movement grows in volume and in strength, the influence of this hazy conception diminishes, and the real, democratic, substance of the agrarian wishes and demands of the peasants becomes more pronounced. In this sphere, and even more so in the sphere of political questions, of paramount importance is the role played by working-class democracy and its struggle to prevent the submission of the peasants to liberal leadership. It will be no exaggeration to say that there is a very close connection between the successes of Russian democracy as   a whole, those of the past and those yet to come, and the transfer of the political leadership of the peasantry from the liberals to working-class democracy. Unless this leadership passes to the working class, Russian democracy cannot hope to attain any more or less serious successes.

The electoral law of June 3, 1907, as we know, made the greatest “inroads” upon the suffrage of the peasants. We need only remind the readers that that law provided for an increase from 1,952 to 2,594, or 32.9 per cent in the number of electors sent by the landowners, while the number of electors from the peasants and Cossacks was reduced to less than a half, from 2,659 to 1,168, or by 56.1 per cent. In addition, the law of June 3, 1907, provides that the deputies to the Duma from the peasant curia (officially designated: “from conventions of delegates from volosts[2] ”) are not to be chosen by the peasant electors alone, as was the case previously, but by the entire electoral assembly of each gubernia, that is to say, by bodies in which landowners and big capitalists predominate.

This being the procedure, the peasant democrats (Trudoviks) can secure seats in the Duma only if all the peasant electors, without a single exception, are Trudoviks. In that case the Bight landowners will be compelled to elect Trudoviks from the peasant curia, just as they have been compelled to elect Social-Democrats from the worker curia. However, solidarity, organisation, and class-consciousness are naturally much less developed among the peasants than among the workers. Thus there still remains an almost untapped field of serious and rewarding work of political education. And it is this sphere of activity that should command the main attention of all democrats and all Marxists who “go among all classes of the population”,[3] and not that of making advances to and flirting with the counter revolutionary liberals (the Cadets), a sphere that has become a favourite one with the liquidators on Nasha Zarya, etc.

We pointed out in the preceding article that in the elections to the Third Duma the peasant curia proved to be the most democratic of the non-proletarian curias. Out of   53 deputies elected to the Third Duma from the peasant curia, 26, or 49 per cent, were members of the opposition; whereas in the case of the second urban curia (the second assembly of urban voters), only 12 out of 28, or 43 per cent, were members of the opposition. The number of democrats elected to the Third Duma from the peasant curia was 5 out of 53, or 10 per cent; whereas in the case of the second urban Curia, their number was 2 out of 28, or 7 per cent.

It is worth while examining which gubernias elected representatives of the opposition from the peasant curia and what was the composition of all the deputies elected by each of them to the Third Duma. Of the 53 gubernias, in each of which the law provides for the election of one deputy from the peasant curia, 23 sent Rights (including Octobrists) as representatives of the peasant curia, 17 sent liberals (Cadets, Progressists, and Moslems), and only five sent democrats (Trudoviks). In eight gubernias independent peasants were elected.

On closer examination we see that not a single one of the gubernias which elected a majority of Right deputies to the Third Duma sent a democrat to represent the peasant curia. Democrats (Trudoviks) were elected only in those gubernias where no Right deputies were returned. These five gubernias—Archangel, Vyatka, Perm, Stavropol, and Tomsk—are represented in the Third Duma by 15 liberals, 8 Trudoviks, and 3 Social-Democrats. There is hardly any room for doubt that, had the peasants and the workers in these gubernias been more class-conscious and better organised, it would have been possible to increase, at the expense of the liberals, the proportion of democrats elected.

It may not be perhaps amiss to point out here that altogether 24 gubernias sent a majority of opposition deputies to the Third Duma. In 18 of these 24 only opposition deputies were elected. In all, these 24 gubernias are represented in the Duma by 9 Right deputies, 2 independents, 55 liberals, 14 Trudoviks, and 8 Social-Democrats. The reader will thus readily see that there is a fairly widespread opportunity to increase the proportion of democratic deputies at the expense of the liberals and, in general, to win the petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry away from their influence.

It is interesting to note further that in 10 gubernias out of the 17 which elected liberals from the peasant curia, the Rights gained more seats than the opposition. We must therefore assume that, as a rule, there were no Rights at all among the peasant electors in these gubernias, for if there had been, the Right majorities in the gubernia electoral assemblies would surely have elected them....

The duty of the working-class democrats with regard to the peasants in the elections is perfectly clear. They must carry their purely class propaganda to a peasantry that is becoming proletarianised. They must help the peasants to unite their forces in the elections to enable them, even on the basis of the June Third electoral law, to send to the Fourth Duma their own representatives in as large numbers as possible despite the obstacles put in their way both by the supporters of the old regime and by the liberals. They must strive to consolidate the leadership of working-class democrats and explain the great harm caused by the vacillation of the peasant democrats toward the liberals.


[1] See p. 372 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] See footnote to p. 88.—Ed.

[3] See present edition, Vol. 5, p. 468.—Ed.


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