V. I.   Lenin

The Social-Democrats and Electoral Agreements


Thus, an examination of the actual electoral system shows that blocs at the lower stages of the elections are particularly undesirable in the cities, and are not essential. In the countryside, at the lower stages (i.e., at the election of the one- per-ten-household representatives and of the delegates), blocs are both undesirable and quite unnecessary. The uyezd assemblies of delegates and the gubernia assemblies of electors are of decisive political importance. Here, i.e., at the higher stages, partial agreements are necessary and possible without undesirable infringement of party principle; for the contest before the masses has ended, and there is no need to advocate before the masses directly or indirectly (or even by assumption) a non-party policy; neither is there the least danger of obscuring the strictly independent class policy of the proletariat.[1]

Now let us examine, first from the formal, arithmetical point of view, so to speak, what forms these partial electoral agreements will assume at the higher stages.

We shall take approximate percentages, i.e., the distribution of electors (and delegates, who are included in what follows) according to party, per hundred electors. To succeed in an assembly of electors a candidate must obtain at least 51 votes out of every 100. This indicates that the general tactical rule of the Social-Democratic electors must be: to   try to win over a sufficient number of bourgeois-democratic electors who sympathise with Social-Democracy, or such as most deserve support, in order jointly with them to defeat the rest and thus secure the election of in part Social-Democratic and in part the best bourgeois-democratic electors.[2]

We shall illustrate this rule by simple examples. Let us assume that out of 100 electors, 49 are Black Hundreds, 40 are Cadets and 11 are Social-Democrats. A partial agreement between the Social-Democrats and the Cadets is necessary in order to secure the election in full of a joint list of Duma candidates, on the basis, of course, of a proportional distribution of Duma seats according to the number of electors (i.e., in this case, one-fifth of the Duma seats from the whole gubernia, say, two out of ten, would go to the Social-Democrats, and four-fifths, or eight out of ten, would go to the Cadets). If there are 49 Cadets, 40 Trudoviks and 11 Social-Democrats, we must try to reach an agreement with the Trudoviks so as to defeat the Cadets and to win one-fifth of the seats for ourselves and four-fifths for the Trudoviks. In such a case we would have a splendid opportunity to test the consistency and steadfastness of the democratic convictions of the Trudoviks: would they agree to turn away from the Cadets entirely and defeat them in conjunction with the electors of the workers’ party, or would they rather choose to “save” this or that Cadet or, perhaps, even prefer a bloc with the Cadets to one with the Social-Democrats? Here we can, and must, demonstrate and prove to the whole people to what extent particular petty-bourgeois elements are gravitating towards the monarchist bourgeoisie or towards the revolutionary proletariat.

In the last example the Trudoviks stand to gain an obvious advantage by forming a bloc with the Social-Democrats and not with the Cadets, for in the former case they   would obtain four-fifths of the total number of seats, whereas in the latter case they would obtain only four-ninths. Still more interesting would be the reverse case: 11 Cadets, 40 Trudoviks and 49 Social-Democrats. In such a case the prospect of an obvious advantage would impel the Trudoviks t.o enter into a bloc with the Cadets: in that case “we” shall get more seats in the Duma, they will say. But loyalty to the principles of democracy and to he interests of the real working masses would certainly call for a bloc with the Social-Democrats, even at the cost of some seats in the Duma. The representatives of the proletariat must carefully take all such cases into account and explain to the electors and to the whole people (the results of agreements in the assemblies of delegates and electors must be publicly announced) the significance from the point of view of principle of this election arithmetic.

Further, in the last example we see a case where both the prospect of obvious advantage and considerations of principle are inducements to the Social-Democrats to split the Trudoviks. If among them there are, say, two fully party Socialist-Revolutionaries, we must exert every effort to win them to our side and with 51 votes defeat all the Cadets and all the rest of the less revolutionary Trudoviks. If among the Trudoviks there are two Socialist-Revolutionaries and 38 Popular Socialists, we shall have an opportunity to test the loyalty of the Socialist-Revolutionaries to the interests of democracy and to the interests of the working masses. We would say: vote for the republican democrats and against the Popular Socialists, who tolerate the monarchy; vote for the confiscation of the landlords’ land and against the Popular Socialists, who tolerate redemption payments; vote for those who are for arming the whole people and against the Popular Socialists, who accept a standing army. And then we would see whom the Socialist-Revolutionaries would prefer—the Social-Cadets[3] or the Social-Democrats.

This brings us to the question of the significance of this election arithmetic from the point of view of political principle. Our duty here is to oppose seat-hunting and to put forward an absolutely firm and consistent defence of the standpoint of the socialist proletariat and of the interests of the complete victory of our bourgeois-democratic revolution. Under no circumstances, and in no way, should our Social-Democratic delegates and electors keep silent about our socialist aims, our strictly class position as a proletarian party. But a mere repetition of the word “class” is not sufficient to indicate the role of the proletariat as the vanguard in the present revolution. Expounding our socialist doctrine and the general theory of Marxism is not sufficient to prove the leading role of the proletariat. This requires, in addition, the ability to show in practice, in analysing the burning questions of the present revolution, that the members of the workers’ party are more consistent, more unerring, more determined and more skilful than all others in defending the interests of this revolution, the cause of its complete victory. This is no easy task, and the fundamental and chief duty of every Social-Democrat who is entering the election campaign is to prepare for it.

To determine the differences between the parties and shades of parties at the assemblies of delegates and of electors (as well as throughout the election campaign—that goes without saying) will be a small, but useful practical task. In this matter, incidentally, the course of events will settle many controversial questions which are agitating the members of the Social-Democratic Labour Party. The Right wing of the Party, from the extreme opportunists of Nashe Dyelo to the moderate opportunists of Sotsial-Demokrat, are doing their utmost to obliterate and distort the difference between the Trudoviks and the Cadets, evidently failing to notice a new and very important phenomenon, namely, the division of the Trudoviks into Popular Socialists, Socialist Revolutionaries, and those who are gravitating to the one or the other. Of course, the history of the First Duma and its dissolution already provided documentary evidence making the drawing of a distinction between the Cadets and the Trudoviks absolutely imperative and proving that the latter are more consistently and staunchly democratic than the   former. The election campaign to the Second Duma must prove and show this even more graphically, more exactly, more fully, and more widely. As we have tried to show by examples, the election campaign itself will teach the Social-Democrats to distinguish correctly between the various bourgeois-democratic parties and will refute, or, more correctly, sweep aside, the deeply mistaken opinion that the Cadets are the chief or, at any rate, important representatives of our bourgeois democracy in general.

Let us point out, too, that in the election campaign in general, and in concluding electoral agreements at the higher stages, the Social-Democrats must speak simply and clearly, in a language comprehensible to the masses, absolutely discarding the heavy artillery of erudite terms, foreign words and stock slogans, definitions and conclusion which are as yet unfamiliar and unintelligible to the masses. Without flamboyant phrases, without rhetoric, but with facts and figures, they must be able to explain the questions of social ism and of the present Russian revolution.

Two fundamental questions of this revolution, the questions of freedom and of land, will inevitably arise here. Upon these fundamental questions which are agitating the vast mass of the people we must concentrate both purely socialist propaganda—the difference between the standpoint of the small proprietor and that of the proletariat—and the distinction between the parties fighting for influence over the people. The Black Hundreds, right up to the Octobrists inclusively, are against freedom, against giving the land to the people. They want to stop the revolution by force, bribery and deceit. The liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie, the Cadets, are also striving to stop the revolution, but by means of a number of concessions. They do not want to give the people either complete freedom, or all the land. They want to preserve landlordism by means of redemption payments and local land committees not elected on the basis of universal, direct and equal suffrage by secret ballot. The Trudoviks, i.e., the petty bourgeoisie, especially the rural petty bourgeoisie, are striving to secure all the land and complete freedom, but are pursuing this aim hesitatingly, not consciously, timidly, vacillating between the opportunism of the Social-Cadets (the Popular Socialists)—who justify the hegemony   of the liberal bourgeoisie over the peasantry and elevate it to a theory—and utopian equality, alleged to be possible under commodity production. Social-Democracy must consistently uphold the standpoint of the proletariat and purge the revolutionary consciousness of the peasantry of Popular-Socialist opportunism and of utopianism, which obscure the really urgent tasks of the present revolution. Only when its complete victory is attained can the working class, and the whole people, really, quickly, boldly, freely and widely set to work to solve the fundamental problem of the whole of civilised mankind: the emancipation of labour from the yoke of capital.

We shall also deal carefully with the question of the means of struggle in the election campaign and in the conclusion of partial agreements with other parties. We shall explain what a constituent assembly is, and why the Cadets fear it. We shall ask the liberal bourgeoisie, the Cadets, what measures they intend to advocate and put into practice independently to make it impossible for anyone to treat the people’s representatives in the way the deputies of the “first enrolment” were “treated”. We shall remind the Cadets of their vile and treacherous attitude towards the October-December forms of struggle last year, and make it known to the widest possible sections of the people. We shall ask every candidate whether he intends to subordinate all his activities in the Duma entirely to the interests of the struggle outside the Duma and the interests of wide popular movement for land and freedom. We must take advantage of the election campaign to organise the revolution, i.e., to organise the proletariat and the really revolutionary elements of bourgeois democracy.

Such is the positive content which we must try to impart to the whole election campaign and, in particular, to the matter of entering into partial agreements with other parties.


[1] It is interesting to note that experience of the distinction between agreements at a lower stage and those at higher stages is to be found, too, in the practice of the international Social-Democratic movement. In France, the election of Senators takes place in two stages: the voters elect departmental electors, who, in their turn, elect the Senators. The revolutionary French Social-Democrats, the Guesdists, have never permitted any agreements or joint lists at the lower stage, but have permitted partial agreements at the higher stage, i.e., for the distribution of seats in the assemblies of the departmental electors. The opportunists, however, the Jaurèsists, entered into agreements even at the lower stage.—Lenin

[2] For the sake of simplicity, we are assuming a purely and exclusively party distribution of electors. In practice, of course, we shall meet with many non-party electors. The task of the Social-Democratic electors will be to try as far as possible to ascertain the political character of all, especially of the bourgeois-democratic electors, and to form a “Left majority” consisting of the Social-Democrats and the bourgeois candidates most desirable for the Social-Democrats. The main criteria for distinguishing between party trends we shall discuss later.—Lenin

[3] This is what Soznatelnaya Rossiya[4] called the Popular Socialists. Incidentally, the first and second issues of this publication have given us great satisfaction. Chernov, Vadimov and others brilliantly criticise both Peshekhonov and Tag—in. Particularly good is the refutation of Tag—in’s arguments from the point of view of the theory of commodity production, developing through capitalism into socialism.—Lenin

[4] Soznatelnaya Rossiya (Class-Conscious Russia)—a Socialist-Revolutionary symposium published in St. Petersburg in the autumn of 1906. From the third issue it appeared with the subtitle “Symposium on Present-Day Themes”.

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