V. I.   Lenin

The Landlords on the Boycott of the Duma

Published: Proletary, No. 20, October 10 (September 27), 1905. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 9, pages 323-326.
Translated: The Late Abraham Fineberg and Julius Katzer
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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The abridged minutes of the July Zemstvo Congress have been published in No. 76 of Osvobozhdeniye. At present, when the question of the tactics towards the State Duma is in the limelight, this material is most noteworthy, for it is unique in showing just how the Zemstvo and Osvobozhdeniye people discussed the boycott issue. Certainly no one doubts that prior to the conclusion of peace—the appearance of the Duma Act—they were, or tried to appear, more revolutionary than they are at present. Nevertheless, the nature of their arguments is most useful for a verification of our own appraisal of the issue. After all, this is probably the first case in Russian political history of concrete political steps being discussed simultaneously by both opposition and revolutionary parties.

It is quite natural that the bourgeois democrats were impelled to raise the boycott issue not by the general programme of their struggle or by the interests, of definite classes, but primarily by a vague feeling of embarrassment, of shame at the contradictory and false position they have placed themselves in. “How can we take part in something we have ourselves condemned?” Mr. Shishkov asked. “Why, the people will think that we endorse the scheme.” As you see, this liberal’s very first thought of the boycott is linked with the question of the people—he feels instinctively that to go into the Duma means wronging the people. He cannot get rid of gleams of good intentions to march with the people. Mr. Rayevsky, another speaker, puts the question on a more abstract plane: “We have always been steadfast in principle, but in tactics we are entering into a compromise. It will   turn out that we condemned the Bulygin scheme and yet are bent on becoming representatives of the people. We shall not tread this slippery path.” This, of course, is a slight exaggeration on the part of Mr. Rayevsky, for the Osvobozhdeniye League has never been steadfast in principle. It is also incorrect to reduce the question to a bare repudiation of compromise: revolutionary Social-Democrats who have absorbed the spirit of Marxism would have told this speaker that it is ridiculous to absolutely reject compromises that are imposed by life itself, and that this is not the point at issue; what matters is a clear understanding and persistent pursuit of the aims of the struggle under all circumstances. However, we repeat, any materialistic presentation of the problem is basically alien to a bourgeois democrat. His doubts are merely a symptom of the deep split within the various strata of bourgeois democracy.

Mr. Rodichev, the phrase-monger who spoke after Mr. .Rayevsky, settled the question very simply: “At one time we protested against the new Zemstvo regulations, yet we entered the Zemstvos.... If we had the forces with which to effect a boycott, we should declare one” (and is not this “lack of forces”, gentlemen, due to the fact that the interests of the property-owners are hostile to an unyielding struggle against the autocracy, and hostile to the workers and peasants?).... “The first rule of military art is to get away in time...” (believe it or not, that is what this knight of liberalism from Tver actually said! And yet the liberals jeer at Kuropatkin). “There will be a boycott if we, after entering the Duma, make the following our first decision: ’We are leaving. This is not a genuine representation, which you can no longer do without. Give us a real representation!’” That would be a real “boycott”. (Why, of course! To say “give us” !—could anything be more “real” for a Zemstvo Balalaikin?[1] No wonder they laughed so heartily when Mr. Golovin told them how “easily he had dispelled” the Governor of Moscow’s apprehensions lest the Zemstvo Congress declare itself a constituent assembly.)

Mr. Kolyubakin said: “The preceding speakers put the question as follows: ’Either go into the Bulygin Duma, or do nothing at all’” (Iskra puts the question exactly like these ’preceding speakers” of the monarchist bourgeoisie’s right   wing). “We must appeal to the people, who will be unanimously opposed to the Bulygin Duma.... Appeal to the people, exercise freedom of speech and of assembly in actual practice. But by entering a disreputable institution you are disgracing yourselves. You will be in the minority there, and this minority will disgrace itself in the eyes of the population.” In this speech one again senses the link between the boycott idea and an appeal to the peasantry, the significance of that idea as a turn away from the tsar and towards the people. And with admirable candour, Mr. Shchepkin hastened to rejoin to Mr. Kolyubakin’s speech, which he so thoroughly understood: “Never mind if we make a mistake in the eyes of the people, if only we save the cause” (... the cause of the bourgeoisie, would probably have been the workers’ interjection had they been present at this illustrious gathering). “I do not dispute that we may soon have to tread the revolutionary path. But the draft drawn up by the Bureau” (the draft resolution against a boycott) “seeks to avoid this, since we are not revolutionary either by upbringing or by inclination” (class upbringing, class inclination).

Mr. Shchepkin argues wisely! Better than the whole new-Iskra lot taken together, he understands that the crux of the matter is not the choice of ways and means, but the disparity of aims. It is necessary to “save the cause” of law and order—that is what really matters. The revolutionary path, which may lead to the victory of the workers and peasants, cannot be risked.

On the other hand, that magniloquent windbag Mr. de Roberti talks exactly like a new-Iskra adherent: “What is to be done if, owing to its inefficacy, the draft becomes law? An armed uprising?” (Come, come, Mr. Roberti, how can one “link up an uprising with the Duma!”? What a pity you are not acquainted with our Bund, which would have explained to you that the two cannot be linked together.) “That, I believe, will undoubtedly come in due time. But at present, resistance can either be merely passive, or passive while always ready to become active.” (Oh, what a charming radical! He ought to borrow the slogan “revolutionary self government” from the new Iskra—what arias he could render on this theme, what arias!...)... “to elect only those who would enter with the determination to effect a revolution   at all costs”. That’s the kind of people we are! Well, were we wrong when we said that Parvus met a friend in such an Osvobozhdeniye man, or that the new Iskra had risen to the bait of the high-flown phrases of the magniloquent landed proprietors?


[1] Balalaikin—a character in Saltykov-Shchedrin’s Modern Idyll, a liberal windbag, adventurer and liar.

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