V. I.   Lenin

The Government’s Falsification of the Duma and the Tasks of the Social-Democrats

Written: Written December 14 (27), 1906
Published: Published December 20, 1906 in Proletary, No. 10. Published according to the newspaper text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 383-388.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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The tsarist government steadily continues its “work” to falsify the Duma. Warning the credulous Russian public not to be carried away by constitutionalism, we wrote, even before these falsifications began (see Proletary, No. 5, September 30,1906), that a new coup d’état was in preparation, namely, that the electoral law of December 11, 1905, was to be amended before the elections to the Second Duma. At that time we wrote: “Nor is there any doubt that the government is carefully studying” the question “whether the old electoral law should remain in force”.[1]

Yes, the tsar’s government has been studying this question and, perhaps, has already even completed its study. It has preferred to amend the electoral law by means of Senate interpretations.[3] Now it is taking further steps in the direction of restricting freedom of agitation (if freedom in Russia can be further restricted) and faking the elections. The other day an order was promulgated prohibiting the issue of election forms to unregistered parties.[4] Newspapers are being more and more summarily suppressed. Arrests are becoming more and more frequent. Premises are being raided and searched with the most transparent object of obtaining the names of electors and influential voters, in order to “remove” them. In short, the election campaign is in full swing, as the witticism of Russian citizens puts it.

How far the government will go with its military-court methods of falsifying the Duma, no one can tell. Why not arrest the electors both on election day and after the elections?   The law—that stupid word still has currency in Russia!—speaks of the immunity of members of the Duma, but there is not a word in it about the immunity of electors. Our press pointed this out even during the elections to the First Duma. The Black-Hundred tsarist gang thought that “Witte missed his chance” on that occasion; hut in fact the government was still too weak after the December uprising to go on and capture the revolution’s next line of defence. Now the counter-revolution has gathered strength, and is doing the right thing, from its point of view, in breaking the constitution (which only naive Cadets could believe in). The reactionaries are not liberal Balalaikins.[5] They are men of action. They see, and know from experience, that the tiniest bit of freedom in Russia inevitably leads to an upsurge of the revolution. They are therefore compelled to go farther and farther, to do more and more violence to the October Constitution, to tighten still further the political safety valve that once was half open.

It takes the infinite obtuseness of a Russian Cadet, or of a non-party progressive intellectual, to cry out, on that account, about the government’s folly and urge it to return to the path of constitutionalism. The government cannot act otherwise in protecting the tsarist regime and landlordism from the concealed, subdued, but unquelled pressure from be low. And we say to the government: All right, put your dampers on, tighten the half-opened valves. While they were somewhat open the fresh draught increased the heat in the boiler. When you close the valves there may be an explosion of the very kind we most desire. Our business is to make the utmost use among the masses of Stolypin’s splendid propaganda, of his splendid explanations of the “nature of the constitution”.

But here we see the deep gulf that separates the tactics of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie from the tactics of the socialist proletariat. The Social-Democrats advocate a struggle, and explain to the people with the aid of a thousand and one lessons from history that a struggle is inevitable; they are preparing for it and retaliate to the intensification of reaction with intensified revolutionary agitation. The liberals cannot advocate a struggle, because they are afraid of it. They respond to the intensification of reaction   by whining about a constitution, thus corrupting people’s minds, and by intensified opportunism. The methods of the liberals were aptly and graphically hit off by the Trudovik Sedelnikov at a meeting on May 9 in the Panina Palace. When a liberal is abused, he says: Thank God they didn’t beat me. When he is beaten, he thanks God they didn’t kill him. When he is killed, he will thank God that his immortal soul has been delivered from its mortal clay.

When Stolypin’s Black-Hundred gang cried out against the Cadets and launched a campaign against their revolutionary tendencies, the Cadets began to howl: “It is not true, we are not revolutionaries, we are respectable people! Down with the Vyborg Manifesto, down with blocs with the Lefts, down with the slogan of ’a Duma with full power’ advocated by the most Right-wing of the Right Social-Democrats, Plekhanov; down with pernicious revolutionary illusions! We are going into the Duma to legislate.” When the Black-Hundred gang announced that the Cadets, as an unregistered party, would not be issued election forms, the Cadets cried out: “That puts a different complexion on the question of agreements!” (See the leading article in Rech, December 13). That increases the importance of the only registered party of the opposition, the Party of Peaceful Renovation”. “When entering into agreements this must be taken into consideration!” And when the Cadet elector who has managed to creep into the Peaceful Renovation list is hauled off to the police station—the Cadets will thank God that we have not been completely deprived of the constitution. Our knights of the law will then say: The only absolutely safe party is that of the Octobrists; and have we not always said that we take our stand on the Manifesto of October 17?

What do the Menshevik comrades think about this? Should we not hasten to call a new Party conference and sanction agreements with the Peaceful Renovators and, perhaps, even with the Octobrists? After all, they, too, want “semi-liberty”, as the extremely embarrassed Plekhanov argues today (December 14) in the newspaper of the ex-Social Democrats!

It is not by accident that the question of the Peaceful Renovators has cropped up among the Cadets. It had been raised before, prior to the order concerning the issue of   election forms. Even the Left Cadets on Tovarishch (the “almost socialists”, as some jesters call them) in their issue of December 5 included the Peaceful Renovators among the progressive parties, counting six progressive parties in all (the Cadets, the Social-Democrats, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Popular Socialists, the Party of Democratic Reforms and the Party of Peaceful Renovation). In the same issue of Tovarishch the ex-Social-Democrats poured their wrath on the poster about the three main parties published as a supplement to Proletary, No. 8.[2] It is “political dishonesty”, cried Plekhanovs friends—b relegate Heyden to the Black Hundreds!

We are very glad that we have compelled the renegade Social-Democrats to defend this former Octobrist, who after the dissolution of the Duma, protested against the Vyborg Manifesto and negotiated with Stolypin about the Cabinet.

But you gentlemen, collaborators of Plekhanov, should have been more adroit in your defence of him! It is common knowledge that in the first elections the Octobrists (including Heyden and Shipov) formed a bloc with the Black Hundreds. You are prepared to forget this because the party has changed its name? And yet on that very page (4) of Tovarishch, December 5, we read that there is a trend in the Union of October Seventeenth which is in favour of an agreement with the Party of Peaceful Renovation, and that this trend even predominates in the St. Petersburg branch of the Union. And a little lower down we read that “the Central Board of the United Russian People” sanctions blocs with the Octobrists, and for that reason Tovarishch refuses to recognise the Octobrists as constitutionalists.

Isn’t that fine? We refuse to call the Octobrists constitutionalists because the Black Hundreds sanction blocs with them. But we call the Peaceful Renovators progressives, despite the fact that the Octobrists sanction blocs with them.

Oh, those sapient gudgeons of our notorious progressive “intelligentsia”!

The intellectualist radicals’. defence of the Peaceful Renovators, the turn taken by the central organ of the Cadet Party towards peaceful renovation immediately after the   order on election forms was issued, are typical examples of liberal tactics. If the government takes one step to the right, we take two steps to the right! Lo and behold —again we are legal and peaceful, tactful and loyal; we shall manage without election forms, we are always ready to adapt our selves in conformity with infamy![6]

The liberal bourgeoisie think that this is realist politics. They are proud of this grovelling realism (to use the admirable expression of a certain Social-Democrat), they consider it the height of political tact and wise diplomatic tactics. In actual fact, these are not only the most stupid and treacherous, but the most sterile tactics imaginable; it was by pursuing these tactics that the German Cadets—from the Frankfort windbags to Bismarck’s bootlicking national liberals[7]—for more than half a century after the bourgeois revolution consolidated the state power in the hands of the Junkers (the Black-Hundred landlords, the Dorrers, Bulatsels and Purishkeviches—to name their Russian counterparts) and in the hands of “military despotism embellished with parliamentary forms”.[8]

It is time our Mensheviks, who are so enamoured of this policy of the Cadets and are imitating it, understood that the only realist politics, realist in the good and not vulgar sense of the word, are the politics of revolutionary Marxism. We must retaliate to the tricks and manoeuvres of the reactionaries not by adapting ourselves to the Right, but by intensifying and spreading our revolutionary propaganda among the proletarian masses, by developing the spirit of revolutionary class struggle and revolutionary class organisations. In this way, and only in this way, will you strengthen the power of the only fighters against reaction, in spite of all the latter’s tricks and manoeuvres. Retaliating to the Black-Hundred tricks of the government by adapting your tactics to the Right you break up and weaken the only force that is capable of fighting, the force of the revolutionary classes, you obscure their revolutionary consciousness with the tinsel of tricky political “manoeuvres”.

At first the Mensheviks were opposed to agreements with the Cadets. Martov condemned agreements. Y. Larin indignantly rejected them. Even Nich. I—sky disapproved of them. Influenced by the Senate interpretations (by our reactionary   senates in Geneva and in St. Petersburg) Martov & Co. adapted themselves to the Right. They are in favour of blocs with the Cadets, but not with any one further to the Right than the Cadets—heaven forbid! With the “opposition democratic parties” (the resolution of I Lie All-Russian Conference, proposed by the Central Committee and adopted by 18 votes to 14), but no further to the Right!

But now the Cadets are turning to the Peaceful Renovators. And are you, Menshevik comrades, going to do the same? In answer to the Senate interpretations—blocs with the Cadets; in answer to the withdrawal of election forms—blocs with the Peaceful Renovators? What will your answer be when they start arresting the electors??

You have already abandoned real revolutionary propaganda among the masses. You are no longer combating illusions about peaceful evolution and those who are spreading these illusions—the Cadets. All you are concerned about is the Black-Hundred danger. But your “subtle manoeuvres” of joint election lists with the Cadets are built on sand. You are impoverishing the real content of revolutionary Social-Democratic work among the masses, but the gains from this political trickery will not accrue to you, perhaps not even to the Cadets—perhaps not even to the Peaceful Renovators, but to the Octobrists! You reply to the falsification of the Duma by falsifying revolutionary Social-Democratic tactics—but in this way you will neither improve the Duma, nor strengthen socialism, nor advance the cause of revolution.

Unprincipled practical politics are the most unpractical politics.

The working class must reply to the falsification of the Duma not by relaxing but by intensifying its revolutionary agitation, by dissociating itself in its election campaign from these wretched traitors, the Cadets.


[1] See pp.. 200-10 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] See pp. 326-31 of this volume—Ed.

[3] This refers to the interpretations of Law of December 11(24), 1905 on elections to the State Duma published by the Governing Senate prior to the elections to the Second Duma. These Senate interpretations supplementing the law took away electoral rights from further groups of workers, peasants and representatives of the non-Russian nationalities. V. I. Lenin called them “excellent Stolypin interpretations of the ’essence of the constitution’\thinspace".

[4] This refers to the instruction of the Ministry of the Interior published on December 12 (25), 1906, according to which urban and Zemstvo authorities were to issue election forms “only to managers or boards of those societies and unions pursuing political aims, and their branches, which are entered on the register”, i. e., legalised by the government. Thus, under the new interpretation only the Black-Hundred parties were to receive election forms.

[5] Balalaikin—a character in M. Y. Saltykov-Shcherdin’s A Modern Idyll, a liberal windbag, adventurist and liar.

[6] The words “in conformity with infamy” are taken from the story The Liberal by the Russian satirist M. Y. Saltykov-Shchedrin.

[7] This refers to the deputies of the Frankfort Parliament, the National Assembly, convened in Germany in May 1848 after the March revolution. The majority of them were members of the liberal bourgeoisie who engaged in fruitless talk about a draft constitution while in fact leaving power in the hands of the king.

National liberals—a political party in Germany which separated from the party of Prussian progressists in 1866; it represented the interests of the counter-revolutionary big industrial bourgeoisie.

[8] Lenin is quoting from Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, p. 33).

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