V. I.   Lenin

The Social-Democrats and Electoral Agreements


In the big cities, as is well known, there were cases where the state of organisation of the political parties swept away one stage of the elections. By law the elections consisted of two stages. In practice, however, the elections sometimes proved to be direct, or almost direct, as the electorate definitely knew the character of the contending parties, and in some cases they even knew the persons whom a given party intended to send into the Duma. In the countryside, on the contrary, there are so many stages, the electorate is so scattered, and the obstacles to open party action are so great that the elections to the First Duma were, and those to the Second Duma will be, conducted very much “under a cloak”. In other words, very often, and even in the majority of cases, party propagandists will speak to the electors on par ties in general, deliberately mentioning no names out of fear of the police. The radical and revolutionary peasants (and not only peasants) will deliberately screen themselves behind the title “non-party”. At the election of one delegate per ten households it is knowledge of the person as such, personal confidence in this or that candidate, sympathy with his Social-Democratic speeches that will decide the issue. Here the number of Social-Democrats backed by a local Party organisation will be very small. But the number of Social-Democrats who win the sympathies of the local rural population may prove to be much larger than might be expected from the number of local Party units in those districts.

Petty-bourgeois romanticists like the Popular Socialists, who are dreaming of a legal Socialist Party under the existing order, do not understand how confidence in and sympathy with the underground party are growing because of its consistent, uncompromising, militant spirit and the elusiveness of its organisation, which influences the masses not through Party men alone. A real revolutionary illegal party, steeled   in battle, accustomed to the Plehves, and undismayed by the stern measures of the Stolypins, may, in the period of civil war, be capable of influencing the masses to a greater extent than any legal party which, with “callow simplicity”, takes a “strictly constitutional path”.

The Social-Democrats who are members of the Party, and Social-Democrats who do not belong to it, will have good chances of success at the elections of the one-per-ten-house hold representatives and the delegates. A bloc with the Trudoviks, or a joint list, is not at all important for success at this stage of the election in the countryside. On the one hand, the electoral units are quite small there, and on the other, real party Trudoviks, or such as at all resemble them, will be quite rare. The strict Party spirit of the Social-Democrats, their unconditional submission to the Party which has been able to exist illegally for many years and has reached a membership of 100,000 to 150,000 of all nationalities, the only Party on the extreme Left which formed a Party Group in the First Duma—this Party spirit will be a powerful recommendation and guarantee for all those who are not afraid of a resolute struggle and wish for it whole-heartedly, but do not altogether trust their own strength, are afraid of taking the initiative and are afraid to come out openly. We must utilise this advantage of being a strict, “illegal” party to the utmost, and we have nothing to gain by weakening it even slightly by any kind of permanent bloc. The only other resolute and determinedly revolutionary party likely to compete with us are the Socialist-Revolutionaries. But a bloc with them on a really party basis at the first stage of the rural elections would be possible only as an exception: one has only to picture to oneself clearly what the actual election conditions are like in the country side to become convinced of this.[1] Insofar as the non-party revolutionary peasants will be active, while deliberately refraining from associating with any one party, it will be more to our advantage in all respects to influence them in   the sense we desire along strictly party lines. The non-party character of the association, of the agitation, need not hamper the party Social-Democrat, for the revolutionary peasants will never wish to exclude him; and his participation in a non-party revolutionary association is especially sanctioned by the resolution of the Unity Congress on supporting the peasant movement.Thus, while preserving and upholding our Party principle, utilising fully its enormous moral and political advantages, we can at the same time fully adapt ourselves to the task of working among the non-party revolutionary peasants, in the non-party revolutionary associations, circles and meetings, of working with the aid of our non-party revolutionary connections, and so forth. Instead of forming a bloc with the Socialist-Revolutionaries, who have succeeded in organising only a very small fraction of the revolutionary peasantry—a bloc that would restrict and cramp our strict Party principle—we shall make wider and freer use of our Party position and of all the advantages of working among the non-party “Trudoviks”.

The conclusion to be drawn is that at the lower stages of the election campaign in the countryside, that is, at the election of the one-per-ten-household representatives and of the delegates (sometimes the election of the delegates will, in practice, probably be tantamount to a first stage election), there is no need for us to enter into any electoral agreements. The percentage of men with definite political views who are suitable as candidates for the office of one-per-ten-household representatives, or delegates, is so small that the Social-Democrats who have gained the confidence and respect of the peasants (and without this condition no serious candidature is conceivable) have every chance, almost to a man, of being elected as one-per-ten-household representatives and delegates, without having to enter into any agreement with other parties.

As for the assemblies of delegates, there we shall be able to base our policy upon the exact results of the primary election contests which have decided the whole matter in advance. Here we can and must enter into—not blocs, of course, not close and permanent agreements—but partial agreements on the distribution of seats. Here, and even more so on the assemblies of electors for the election of the Duma deputies,   we must, in conjunction with the Trudoviks, defeat the Cadets, and in conjunction with the Socialist-Revolutionaries, defeat the Popular Socialists, etc.


[1] It was certainly no accident that the Socialist-Revolutionaries could not come forward as a party in the First Duma; could not rather than would not. The Socialist-Revolutionaries in the Duma, as well as those in the University, thought it more advantageous to hide behind the non-party Trudoviks, or to enter into a bloc with them.—Lenin

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