V. I.   Lenin

A Most Lucid Exposition of a Most Confused Plan

Published: Proletary, No. 15, September 5 (August 23), 1905. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 9, pages 224-226.
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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In a leading article[1] we pointed out what a muddle the new-Iskra’s new plan for a “Duma campaign” is. Here is a most lucid exposition of it given by Martov himself in the Vienna Arbeiter Zeitung[2] (of August 24, New Style). (The italics everywhere are Martov’s own.)

"The plan is as follows,” says Comrade Martov, referring to its “endorsement by many organisations in Russia”. “Working-class organisations are to assume the initiative in establishing people’s agitation committees, to be elected by all elements of the population that are not satisfied with the tsar’s reform. The task of such commit tees consists first of all in developing agitation for genuine popular representation throughout the country. These committees are to be set up formally for the purpose of enabling the mass of the population to take part in the forthcoming elections. Since by virtue of the electoral law they are barred from direct participation in the elections, the citizens may take part indirectly by communicating their opinions and demands to the more exclusive bodies of privileged voters. The committees bring pressure to bear on the electoral body with the object of getting only resolute advocates 01 democratic and free representation elected to the Duma. At the same time the committees strive to set up, apart from the ’legal’ representative body, an illegal representative body which would be able at the right moment to come forward as the country’s provisional organ of the people’s will. The committees call on the population to elect their representatives by universal suffrage; at a given moment these representatives should gather in some one city and proclaim themselves a constituent assembly. Such is, so to say, the ideal objective of this campaign. Whether matters will get so far as this or not, a movement along these lines will serve to organise revolutionary self-government, which will smash the shackles of tsarist legality, and lay the foundation for the future triumph of the revolution. Little by little the rudiments of   such revolutionary self-government are arising all over Russia, as, for instance, has already happened at the present time in two Caucasian gubernias where the official authorities are being boycotted by the entire population, and the latter is being governed by its own elected authorities. (In parentheses: the peasants of Guria demand that these authorities be endorsed by our Committee.)

"The abolition of the autocracy, which does not wish to inaugurate a constitutional era voluntarily, must proceed by way of setting up such publicly functioning self-government bodies everywhere. It goes without saying that opportunities for this are engendered by the increasing disorganisation of the government apparatus and the growth o¶ an effective power (wirkenden Kraft) among the people.”

We recommend this peerless plan to the comrades as the Ideal objective of the monarchist (Osvobozhdeniye) bourgeoisie, as the ideal objective of liquidating the Russian proletarian- peasant revolution by the liberal landlords.

As we have pointed out hundreds of times, the Osvobozhdeniye League, i.e., the monarchist bourgeoisie, wants just such a “liquidation” as would bring about the transfer of power to the bourgeoisie without a popular uprising, or, at any rate, without the complete victory of an uprising of the people. Manilovist plans for “elections” while the autocracy remains in power play entirely into the hands of the liberal bourgeoisie, which alone is capable of producing anything at all resembling such elections.

We shall dwell on the details of this ridiculous plan only briefly. Is it not naïve to forget that self-government in the Caucasus (not in two gubernias, but in a few volosts) rests on an armed uprising? Is it not puerile to imagine that what is possible in a few mountain villages in a remote frontier district is possible in the heart of Russia without the people’s victory over the autocracy? Is not this plan of multi-stage “elections” while power remains in the hands of the autocratic government, a bit of superb pedantry? “The dissatisfied elements of the population” (?) elect people’s agitation committees (without a programme, without clear slogans). The committees set up an “illegal representative body” (in all probability, simply replacing the illegal organisation of the Socialist Labour Party by an Osvobozhdeniye organisation!). It is obvious that the substitution of the obscure term, “organ of the people’s will”, for the clear revolutionary term, “a provisional government as the organ of the uprising”, is   simply playing into the hands of the Zemstvo-bourgeois party. Universal elections to a constituent assembly on the initiative of “illegal” committees, while Trepov[3] and Co. are left in power is an idea which is altogether infantile.

In disputes it is sometimes useful to have a “devil’s advocate”—one who defends an absurd view which is rejected by everyone. Iskra has now assumed this role. Its plan is most helpful for educational purposes in refuting absurdities at meetings of study circles, extemporaneous meetings, mass meetings, etc.; it is very helpful for the purpose of bringing out more distinctly the contrast between the slogans of the revolutionary proletariat and those of the monarchist liberal bourgeoisie.


[1] See pp. 212-23 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] The Vienna Arbeiter Zeitung—a daily newspaper that was the central organ of Austrian Social-Democracy. It was founded by V. Adler in Vienna in 1889.

In 1905 the paper reflected the militant temper of the workers and the toiling masses of Austria-Hungary, who under the influence of the first Russian revolution were fighting for the introduction of universal suffrage in their country

During the First World War the paper took a social-chauvinist stand, for which Lenin called it the newspaper of “The Viennese traitors to socialism” (Collected Works, Vol. 29, “Heroes of the Berne International”). Banned in 1934, the paper resumed publication in 1945 as the central organ of the Socialist Party of Austria.

[3] D. F. Trepov—Governor General of St. Petersburg, who was active in the suppression of the first Russian revolution.

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