V. I.   Lenin

The Social-Democrats and Electoral Agreements


In order to come nearer to the solution of our problem we must, firstly, examine the fundamental party groupings in the elections to the Second Duma and, secondly, examine the specific features of the present electoral system.

Electoral agreements are concluded between parties. What are the main types of parties that will contest the elections? The Black Hundreds will no doubt unite even more closely than during the elections to the First Duma. The Octobrists and the Party of Peaceful Renovation will join either the Black Hundreds or the Cadets, or, more probably, will oscillate between the two. In any case, to regard the Octobrists as a “party of the Centre” (as L. Martov does in his latest pamphlet, Political Parties in Russia) is a fundamental error: in the actual struggle which must finally decide the outcome of our revolution, the Cadets form the Centre. The Cadets are an organised party that is going into the elections independently and, moreover, is intoxicated with its success at the First Duma elections. But the discipline of this party is not of the strictest and its solidarity not of the strong est. The Left-wing Cadets are disgruntled about the defeat at Helsingfors[1] and are protesting. Some of them (Mr. Alexinsky in Moscow, recently) are going over to the Popular Socialists. In the First Duma there were some “exceptionally rare” Cadets who even gave their signatures to the Bill of the "33" for the abolition of all private ownership of land (Badamshin, Zubchenko and Lozhkin). Hence, to split off at least a small section from this “Centre” and bring it towards the Left is not a hopeless proposition. The Cadets are only too conscious of their weakness among the mass of the people (quite recently even the Cadet Tovarishch had to admit this), and they would readily agree to a bloc with the Lefts. It is not for nothing that the Cadet newspapers have with such tender joy opened their columns to the Social-Democrats Martov and Cherevanin to discuss the question of a bloc between the Social-Democrats and the Cadets. We, of course, will never forget, and will tell it to the masses during the election campaign, that the Cadets failed to keep their promises in the First Duma, that they obstructed the Trudoviks, played at making constitutions, etc., etc., going   to the extent of keeping silent about the “four points”,[2] the Draconian Bills, and so forth.

Next come the “Trudoviks”. The parties of this type, namely the petty-bourgeois and predominantly peasant par ties, are divided into the non-party “Trudovik Group” (which held a congress recently), the Popular Socialists and the Socialist-Revolutionaries (the Polish Socialist Party, etc., correspond more or less to the Socialist-Revolutionaries). The only more or less consistent and determined revolutionaries and republicans among them are the S.-R.’s. The Popular Socialists are much worse opportunists than our Mensheviks; strictly speaking, they are semi-Cadets. The non-party “Trudovik Group” has, perhaps, more influence among the peasantry than the others; but the strength of its democratic convictions is difficult to determine, although it is undoubtedly far more Left than the Cadets, and evidently belongs to the camp of revolutionary democracy.

The Social-Democratic Party is the only party which, in spite of internal dissensions, will enter the elections as a thoroughly disciplined body, which has a fully definite and strictly class basis, and which has united all the Social- Democratic parties of all the nationalities in Russia.

But how are we to enter into a general bloc with the Trudoviks, considering the composition of this type of party, as outlined above? What sureties have we for the non-party Trudoviks? Is a bloc possible between party and non-party people? How do we know that Alexinsky & Co. will not, tomorrow, turn from the Popular Socialists back to the Cadets?

It is clear that a real party agreement with the Trudoviks is impossible. It is clear that we must not under any circumstances help to unite the opportunist Popular Socialists with the revolutionary S.-R.’s; on the contrary, we must split them and counterpose one to the other. It is clear that the existence of a non-party Trudovik Group makes it more to our advantage in all respects to preserve complete independence in order to exert a really revolutionary influence upon them than to tie our hands and blur the distinctions between the monarchists and the republicans, etc. It is absolutely impermissible for Social-Democrats to blur these distinctions; and for this reason alone it is necessary to reject blocs altogether,   once the present grouping of parties unites the non-party Trudoviks, the Popular Socialists and the Socialist-Revolutionaries.

Can they really unite, and are they doing so? They certainly can unite, for they have the same petty-bourgeois class basis. They were, in fact, united in the First Duma, in the press during the October period, in the press of the Duma period, and in the ballots among the students (si licet parva componere magnis—if the small may be compared with the great). A minor symptom, but a characteristic one when connected with others, is the fact that in the ballots of the “autonomous” students there were often three conflicting lists: the Cadets, the bloc of the Trudoviks, Popular Socialists, Socialist-Revolutionaries and Polish Socialist Party, and, lastly, the Social-Democrats.

From the point of view of the proletariat, clarity as regards the class grouping of the parties is of supreme importance; and the advantage of independently influencing the non-party Trudoviks (or those who are oscillating between the Popular Socialists and the Socialist-Revolutionaries) is obvious compared with attempts by the Party to reach an agreement with the non-party people. The facts relating to the parties compel the following conclusion: no agreements whatsoever at the lower stage, when agitation is carried on among the masses; at the higher stages all efforts must be directed towards defeating the Cadets during the distribution of seats by means of a partial agreement between the Social-Democrats and Trudoviks, and towards defeating the Popular Socialists by means of a partial agreement between the Social-Democrats and the Socialist-Revolutionaries.

The objection will be raised: while you incorrigibly utopian Bolsheviks are dreaming of defeating the Cadets, you will all be defeated by the Black Hundreds, because you will split the vote! The Social-Democrats, the Trudoviks and the Cadets together would rout the Black Hundreds for certain; but by acting separately, you may present the common enemy with an easy victory. Let us assume that the Black Hundreds get 26 per cent of the votes, the Trudoviks and Cadets 25 per cent each, and the Social-Democrats 24 per cent. The Black Hundreds will get in unless the Social Democrats, the Trudoviks and the Cadets form a bloc.

This objection is often taken seriously, and so we must carefully analyse it. But in order to analyse it, we must examine the given, i.e., the present electoral system in Russia.


[1] Lenin is referring to the decisions of the Fourth Congress of the Cadet Party, held September 24-28 (October 7-11), 1906, in Helsingfors. In the debate on tactics the Central Committee of that Party moved a resolution rejecting the “passive resistance” proclaimed in the Vyborg Manifesto (see Note 48). The Left Cadets (mainly representatives of provincial organisations of the Party) moved their own resolution, in which “passive resistance” was acknowledged to be the immediate task of the Party. By a majority of votes the Congress adopted the Central Committee’s resolution which called for the Vyborg Manifesto not to be put into effect.

[2] The “four points”—a term applied to the democratic electoral system embracing four demands: universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot.

  II | IV  

Works Index   |   Volume 11 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >