Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution


An Urgent Political Question

At the present revolutionary juncture the question of the convocation of a popular constituent assembly is on the order of the day. Opinions are divided on the point as to how this question should be solved. Three political trends are to be observed. The tsarist government admits the necessity of convening representatives of the people, but it does not want under any circumstances to permit their assembly to be a popular and a constituent assembly. It seems willing to agree, if we are to believe the newspaper reports on the work of the Bulygin Commission,[2] to an advisory assembly, to be elected without freedom to conduct agitation, and on the basis of restricted qualifications or a restricted class system. The revolutionary proletariat, inasmuch as it is led by the Social-Democratic Party, demands complete transfer of power to a constituent assembly, and for this purpose strives to obtain not only universal suffrage and complete freedom to conduct agitation, but also the immediate overthrow of the tsarist government and its replacement by a provisional revolutionary government. Finally, the liberal bourgeoisie, expressing its wishes through the leaders of the so-called “Constitutional-Democratic Party”,[3] does not demand the overthrow of the tsarist government, does not advance the slogan of a provisional government and does not insist on real guarantees that the elections will be absolutely free and fair and that the assembly of representatives will be a genuinely popular and a genuinely constituent assembly. As a matter of fact, the liberal bourgeoisie, the only serious social support of the Osvobozhdeniye trend, is striving to effect as peaceful a deal as possible between the tsar and the revolutionary people, a deal, moreover, that would give a maximum of power to itself, the bourgeoisie, and a minimum to the revolutionary people—the proletariat and the peasantry.

Such is the political situation at the present time. Such are the three main political trends, corresponding to the three main social forces in contemporary Russia. We have already shown on more than one occasion (in the Proletary, Nos. 3, 4, 5)[1] how the Osvobozhdentsi use pseudo-democratic phrases to cover up their half-hearted, or, to put it more bluntly and plainly, their treacherous, perfidious policy towards the revolution. Let us now see how the Social-Democrats appraise the tasks of the moment. Excellent material for this purpose is provided by the two resolutions that were passed quite recently by the Third Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party and by the “Conference” of the section which has seceded from the Party. The question as to which of these resolutions more correctly appraises the political situation and more correctly defines the tactics of the revolutionary proletariat is of enormous importance, and every Social-Democrat who is anxious to fulfil his duties as a propagandist, agitator and organiser intelligently, must study this question with the closest attention, leaving all irrelevant considerations entirely aside.

By the Party’s tactics we mean the Party’s political conduct, or the character, the direction and methods of its political activity. Tactical resolutions are adopted by Party congresses in order precisely to define the political conduct of the Party as a whole with regard to new tasks, or in view of a new political situation. Such a new situation has been created by the revolution that has started in Russia, i.e., the complete, resolute and open rupture between the overwhelming majority of the people and the tsarist government. The new question concerns the practical methods to be adopted in convening a genuinely popular and genuinely constituent assembly (the theoretical question concerning such an assembly was officially settled by Social-Democracy long ago, before all other parties, in its Party program). Since the people have broken with the government, and the masses realise the necessity of setting up a new order, the party which set itself the object of overthrowing the government must necessarily consider what government to put up in place of the old, deposed government. A new question concerning a provisional revolutionary government arises. In order to give a complete answer to this question the Party of the class-conscious proletariat must make clear: 1) the significance of a provisional revolutionary government in the revolution that is now going on and in the entire struggle of the proletariat in general; 2) its attitude towards a provisional revolutionary government; 3) the precise conditions of Social-Democratic participation in this government; 4) the conditions under which pressure is to be brought to bear on this government from below, i.e., in the event of there being no Social-Democrats in it. Only after all these questions are made clear, will the political conduct of the Party in this sphere be principled, clear and firm.

Let us now consider how the resolution of the Third Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party answers these questions. The following is the full text of the resolution:

Resolution on a Provisional Revolutionary Government


“1) both the direct interests of the proletariat and the interests of its struggle for the final aims of socialism require the fullest possible measure of political liberty and, consequently, the replacement of the autocratic form of government by a democratic republic;

“2) the establishment of a democratic republic in Russia is possible only as a result of a victorious popular insurrection whose organ will be a provisional revolutionary government, which alone will be capable of ensuring complete freedom of agitation during the election campaign and of convening a constituent assembly that will really express the will of the people, an assembly elected on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, direct elections and secret ballot;

“3) under the present social and economic order this democratic revolution in Russia will not weaken, but strengthen the rule of the bourgeoisie, which at a certain moment will inevitably try, stopping at nothing, to take away from the Russian proletariat as many of the gains of the revolutionary period as possible:

“The Third Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party resolves that:

“a) that it is necessary to disseminate among the working class a concrete idea of the most probable course of the revolution and of the necessity, at a certain moment in the revolution, for the appearance of a provisional revolutionary government, from which the proletariat will demand the realisation of all the immediate political and economic demands contained in our program (the minimum program);

“b) that subject to the relation of forces, and other factors which cannot be exactly determined beforehand, representatives of our Party may participate in the provisional revolutionary government for the purpose of relentless struggle against all counter-revolutionary attempts and of the defence of the independent interests of the working class;

“c) that an indispensable condition for such participation is that the Party should exercise strict control over its representatives and that the independence of the Social-Democratic Party, which is striving for a complete socialist revolution and, consequently, is irreconcilably hostile to all bourgeois parties, should be strictly maintained;

“d) that irrespective whether the participation of Social-Democrats in the provisional revolutionary government prove possible or not, we must propagate among the broadest masses of the proletariat the necessity for permanent pressure to be brought to bear upon the provisional government by the armed proletariat, led by the Social-Democratic Party, for the purpose of defending, consolidating and extending the gains of the revolution.”


[1] “Revolutionary Struggle and Liberal Brokerage”, 1905: “The Democratic Tasks of the Revolutionary Proletariat”, 1905 and “The First Steps of Bourgeois Betrayal”, 1905. See present edition, Volume 8, pp. 486-94, 511-25–Ed.—Lenin



  Preface | What Can We Learn From the Resolution of the Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. on a Provisional Revolutionary Government?  

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