V. I.   Lenin

The Social-Democrats and Electoral Agreements


Our Duma elections are not direct, but multiple-stage elections. In multiple-stage elections the splitting of votes is dangerous only at the lower stage. It is only when the primary voters go to the poll that the division of the votes is an unknown quantity; it is only in our agitation among the masses that we have to work “in the dark”. At the higher stages, when the elected representatives vote, the general engagement is over; all that remains is to distribute the seats by partial agreements among the parties, which know the exact number of their candidates and their votes.

The lowest stage in the elections is the election of electors in the cities, the election of representatives—one per ten households—-in the villages, and the election of delegates to the workers’ curia.

In the cities, in every electoral area (ward, etc.), we face a great mass of voters. There is, undoubtedly, a danger of splitting the vote. It cannot be denied that in the cities Black-Hundred electors may be elected in some places exclusively because of the absence of a “bloc of the Lefts”, exclusively because, let us say, the Social-Democrats may divert part of the votes from the Cadets. It will be recalled that in Moscow Guchkov received something like 900 votes, and the Cadets about 1,400. If a Social-Democrat had taken 501 votes from the Cadet, Guchkov would have won. And there is no doubt that the general public will take this simple calculation into account; they will be afraid of splitting the vote, and because of that will be inclined to cast their votes only for the most moderate of the opposition candidates. We shall have what is called in England a “three-cornered” fight, when the urban petty bourgeoisie are afraid to vote for a socialist candidate because it would take votes from the liberal and thus allow the conservative to win.

How can this danger be averted? There is only one way: to conclude an agreement at the lower stage, that is, put up   a joint list of electors in which the number of candidates of each party is determined by a definite agreement of the par ties before the contest. All the parties entering into the agreement call upon the electorate to vote for this joint list.

Let us examine the arguments for and against this method. The arguments for are as follows: agitation can be conducted upon strictly party lines. Let the Social-Democrats criticise the Cadets before the masses as much as they like, but let them add: yet they are better than the Black Hundreds, and therefore we have agreed upon a joint list.

The arguments against are as follows: a joint list would be in crying contradiction to the whole independent class policy of the Social-Democratic Party. By recommending a joint list of Cadets and Social-Democrats to the masses we would be bound to cause hopeless confusion of class and political divisions. We would undermine the principles and the general revolutionary significance of our campaign for the sake of gaining a seat in the Duma for a liberal! We would be subordinating class policy to parliamentarism instead of subordinating parliamentarism to class policy. We would deprive ourselves of the opportunity to gain an estimate of our forces. We would lose what is lasting and durable in all elections—the development of the class-consciousness and solidarity of the socialist proletariat. We would gain what is transient, relative and untrue—superiority of the Cadet over the Octobrist.

Why should we jeopardise our consistent work of socialist education? Because of the danger of Black-Hundred candidates? But all the cities in Russia combined have only 35 of the 524 seats in the Duma (St. Petersburg 6, Moscow 4, Warsaw and Tashkent 2 each, the other 21 cities 1 each). This means that the cities by themselves cannot under any circumstances materially affect the composition of the Duma. Besides, we cannot confine ourselves to the merely formal consideration of the arithmetical possibility of splitting the votes. We must ascertain whether there is any great political probability of this happening. An analysis shows that the Black Hundreds obtained a very small minority even in the elections to the First Duma, that cases like the “Guchkov” case mentioned above were exceptional. According to statistics in Vestnik Kadetskoi Partii[2] (No. 7, April 19,   1906), in 20 cities, which sent 28 deputies to the Duma— out of 1,761 electors 1,468 were Cadets, 32 Progressists, 25 non-party, 128 Octobrists, 32 of the Commercial and Industrial Party, and 76 of the Right, i.e., total Rights 236, less than 15 per cent. In ten cities not a single elector of the Rights was returned; in three cities not more than ten electors (out of eighty) of the Rights were returned in each of them. Is it reasonable, under such circumstances, to give up the struggle for our own class candidates because of an exaggerated fear of the Black Hundreds? Would not such a policy, even from a narrow, practical point of view, betray short-sightedness, not to speak of instability of principles?

And what about a bloc with the Trudoviks against the Cadets? we shall be asked. But we have already pointed out the special features of the party relations among the Trudoviks, which make such a bloc undesirable and inexpedient. In the cities, where the working-class population is mostly concentrated, we must never, except in case of extreme necessity, refrain from putting up absolutely independent Social-Democratic candidates. And there is no such urgent necessity. A few Cadets or Trudoviks more or less (especially of the Popular-Socialist type!) are of no serious political importance, for the Duma itself can, at best, play only a subsidiary, secondary role. It is the peasantry, the gubernia assemblies of electors, that are of decisive political importance in determining the results of the Duma elections, and not the cities.[1] In the gubernia assemblies of electors, however, we shall achieve our general political alliance with the Trudoviks against the Cadets far better and more certainly,   without in the least infringing our strict principles, than at the lower stage of the elections in the countryside. We shall now discuss the elections in the countryside.


[1] The small towns, of course, also affect the composition of the gubernia electoral assemblies, through the town conferences. Here, too, the Cadets and the Progressists have had a great majority of votes: for instance, out of 571. electors elected by town conferences, 424 were Cadets and Progressists and 147 of the Right (Vestnik Kadetskoi Partii, No. 5, March 28, 1906). The figures for the separate towns fluctuate very considerably, of course. Under such circumstances we could probably, in very many cases, have put up an independent fight against the Cadets without fearing any accidental splitting of the votes, and without making ourselves dependent upon any non-Social-Democratic party. As for blocs at the lowest stage of elections in the workers’ curia, probably not a single Social-Democrat will speak of them seriously. Complete independence of the Social-Democrats is particularly necessary among the working-class masses—Lenin

[2] Vestnik Partii Norodnoi Svobody (Herald of the Party of People’s Freedom)—a weekly magazine, the organ of the Cadet Party, published in St. Petersburg at intervals from February 22 (March 7), 1906. It was closed down after the 1917 October Revolution.

  III | V  

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