V. I.   Lenin

The Dissolution of the Duma and the Tasks of the Proletariat

The dissolution of the Duma confronts the workers’ party with a number of questions of very great importance. Let us note the foremost of these: (1) the general estimate of this political event in the course of our revolution; (2) the definition of the content of the further struggle and of the slogans under which it must be carried on; (3) the definition of the form of this future struggle; (4) the choice of the moment for the struggle, or, more correctly, an appraisal of the conditions that could help in the correct choice of the moment.

We shall deal briefly with these questions.


The dissolution of the Duma has most strikingly and clearly confirmed the views of those who warned against being obsessed with the external “constitutional” aspect of the Duma and, if one may so express it, with the constitutional surface of Russian politics during the second quarter of 1906. Experience has now exposed the hollowness of the “mighty words” so volubly uttered by our Cadets (and Cadetophiles) before the Duma, about the Duma and in connection with the Duma.

Note this interesting fact: the Duma has been dissolved on strictly constitutional grounds. It has not been “dispersed”. There has been no infringement of the law. On the contrary, it has been done strictly in accordance with the law, as under any “constitutional monarchy”. The supreme power has dissolved the Chamber on the basis of the “constitution”. On the basis of such-and-such an article, the present “Chamber” has been dissolved, and by the same ukase (rejoice,   you legalists!) new elections, or the date of convening a new Duma, have been authorised.

But this is the very thing that has at once exposed the illusory character of the Russian constitution, the fictitious nature of our native parliamentarism, which the Left-wing Social-Democrats so persistently pointed out throughout the first half of 1906. And now this special character of the Russian constitution has been admitted, not by “narrow-minded and fanatical” “Bolsheviks”, but by the most peaceful liberal legalists, and they have admitted it by their conduct. The Cadets have admitted it by replying to the dissolution of the Duma by a mass “flight abroad”, to Vyborg, and by a manifesto which violates the law;[3] they have admitted it by replying through articles in the very moderate Rech, which is forced to admit that in fact it is a matter of the restoration of the autocracy, and that Suvorin inadvertently blurted out the truth when he wrote that it was hardly likely he would live to see another Duma.[4] All the hopes of the Cadets have suddenly switched from “constitution” to revolution, and all this happened as the result of a single, strictly constitutional act of the supreme power. And only yesterday the Cadets boasted in the Duma that they were the “shield of the dynasty” and supporters of strict constitutionalism.

The logic of life is stronger than the logic of textbooks on constitutional law. Revolution teaches.

Everything the “Bolshevik” Social-Democrats have writ ten about the Cadet victories has been brilliantly confirmed. (Cf. the pamphlet, The Victory of the Cadets and the Tasks of the Workers’ Party, by N. Lenin.[1] ) All the bias and short-sightedness of the Cadets have become obvious. Constitutional illusions—that “bogey” the raising of which was the mark of the die-hard Bolsheviks—are now seen by all to be nothing but illusions, a phantom, a mirage.

“There is no Duma!” Moskovskiye Vedomosti[5] and Grazhdanin[6] cry out in a wild frenzy of delight. “There is no constitution!” sadly repeat the Cadets, those subtle connoisseurs of our constitution, who used to quote it so cleverly,   to gloat so much over its clauses. The Social-Democrats will neither exult (we made some use even of the Duma) nor lose heart. The people has gained—they will say—by’ losing one of its illusions.

Yes, in the person of the Cadet Party, the whole of the Russian people is being taught a lesson, learning it not from books, but from its own revolution, one which it itself is making. We said on one occasion that in the person of the Cadets the people is ridding itself of its first illusions of bourgeois emancipation, and that in the person of the Trudoviks it is freeing itself of its last illusions of bourgeois emancipation.[2] The Cadets dreamed of emancipation from serfdom, tyranny, arrogance, Asiatic despotism, autocracy, without the overthrow of the old regime. The limited aspirations of the Cadets have already suffered bankruptcy. The Trudoviks dream of freeing the masses from poverty, from the exploitation of man by man, without destroying the commodity economy; they will yet suffer bankruptcy, and in the very near future too, if our revolution leads to the complete victory of our revolutionary peasants.

The rapid rise of the Cadet Party, their intoxicating victories at the elections, their triumph in the Cadet Duma, their sudden collapse from a single stroke of the pen of the “beloved monarch” (who, one might say, spat in Rodichev’s face while the latter was assuring him of his love)—all these are events of serious political significance; they all mark stages in the revolutionary development of the people. In 1906, the people, i.e., the broad mass of the population, had not yet, as a mass, grown up so far as to be consciously revolutionary. The consciousness that the autocracy was intolerable had become general, and so too had the consciousness of the worthlessness of the government of bureaucrats and of the need for a representative assembly of the people. But the people could not yet realise and appreciate that a representative assembly of the people with power was incompatible with the continued existence of the old regime. For this, it turned out, a special   experience was still needed, the experience of the Cadet Duma.

During its short span of life, the Cadet Duma vividly demonstrated to the people the difference between a representative assembly of the people without power and one with power. Our slogan, a constituent assembly (i.e., a representative assembly of the people with full power), has been proved to be a thousand times right, but life, i.e., the revolution, has brought us towards it by a longer and more complex road than we were able to foresee.

Cast a general glance at the main stages of the great Russian revolution and you will see how, through experience, the people, step by step, approached the slogan of a constituent assembly. First we have the period of “confidence” at the end of 1904. The liberals are in raptures. They occupy the entire foreground. Some not very steadfast Social-Democrats even speak of the two main forces of the moment: the liberals and the government. But the people become imbued with the idea of “confidence”. On January 9 the people “confidently” go to the Winter Palace. The period of “confidence” brings to the front a third force, the proletariat, and lays the basis for the people’s utter lack of confidence in the autocratic government. The period of “confidence” ends by the people refusing to believe the government’s talk about “confidence”.

The next stage. The Bulygin Duma is promised. Confidence is confirmed by action. Representatives of the people are being convened. The liberals are in raptures and call for participation in the elections. The liberal professors, as befits these “ideological” lackeys of the bourgeoisie, call upon the students to go on with their studies and not to meddle with revolution. Some not very steadfast Social-Democrats succumb to the arguments of the liberals. The people appear on the scene. By the October strike the proletariat sweeps away the Bulygin Duma and seizes liberty, gaining the Manifesto, which is quite constitutional in form and content. The people learn by experience that it is not enough to obtain a promise of liberty, one must also have the strength to seize liberty.

Next. In December the government annuls the liberties. The proletariat rises. The first uprising is defeated. But the   stubborn and desperate armed fighting in the streets of Moscow makes the summoning of the Duma unavoidable. The boycott organised by the proletariat fails. The proletariat proves to be too weak to overthrow the Witte Duma. The Cadets fill its benches. The representative assembly of the people is an accomplished fact. The Cadets are in raptures. There is no limit to their cries of delight. The proletariat waits sceptically.

The Duma begins its work. The people make ten times more use of the slight extension of liberties than the Cadets. In spirit and determination the Cadet Duma is at once found to be lagging behind the people. The period of the Cadet Duma (May and June 1906) proves to be a period of the greatest successes for the parties to the Left of the Cadets: the Trudoviks outstrip the Cadets in the Duma; at public meetings the Cadets are censured for their timidity; the Social-Democratic and Socialist-Revolutionary press gains ground; the revolutionary peasant movement grows stronger; there is unrest in the army; the proletariat, which had been exhausted by the December events, recovers. The period of Cadet constitutionalism proves to be the period, not of a Cadet and not of a constitutional movement, but of a revolutionary movement.

This movement compels the government to dissolve the Duma. Experience proves that the Cadets are merely “froth”. Their strength is derived from the strength of the revolution. And to the revolution the government retaliates by the essentially revolutionary (though in form constitutional) act of dissolving the Duma.

The people are becoming convinced by experience that a representative assembly of the people is naught if it does not have full power, if it is convened by the old regime, if the old regime remains intact side by side with it. The objective course of events is now bringing to the fore, not the question of how laws, or the constitution, are to be worded, but the question of power, of real power. All laws and all deputies are naught if they possess no power. That is what the Cadet Duma has taught the people. Let us then sing praises to the eternal memory of the deceased, and take full advantage of the lesson it has taught.



[1] See present edition, Vol. 10, pp. 199-276.—Ed.

[2] See present edition, Vol. 10, p. 459.—Ed.

[3] Lenin is referring to the appeal of members of the First State Duma known as the “Vyborg Manifesto”. The appeal was adopted on July 9-10 (22-23), 1906, at a meeting in Vyborg attended by about 200 deputies, mostly Cadets, after the dissolution of the First Duma. The appeal called on the people to offer “passive resistance” to the government, to refuse to pay taxes or provide recruits until the tsar had ordered new elections to the Duma. In September 1906 the Congress of the Cadet Party openly declared the use of “passive resistance” to be “virtually unrealisable”.

[4] Suvorin, A. S.—editor of the reactionary newspaper Novoye Vremya from 1876 to 1912.

[5] Moskovskiye Vedomsosti (Moscow Recorder)—a newspaper founded in 1756; beginning with the 1560s, it expressed the views of the most reactionary sections of the landlords and clergy; from 1905 onwards it was one of the chief organs of the Black Hundreds.   It was closed down shortly after the October Revolution of 1917.

[6] Grazhdanin (Citizen)—a reactionary magazine published in St. Petersburg from 1872 to 1914. From the eighties of the last century it was the organ of the extreme monarchists and was edit ed by Prince Meshchersky and financed by the government. It had a small circulation, but it was influential in bureaucratic circles.

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