V. I.   Lenin

The Social-Democrats and Electoral Agreements


To sum up.

In their general election tactics the Social-Democrats must take as their starting-point the complete independence of the class party of the revolutionary proletariat.

This general principle may be departed from only in cases of extreme necessity and under specially limited conditions.

The specific features of the Russian electoral system and the political groupings among the overwhelming mass of the population, tie peasantry, do riot give rise to this extreme necessity at the lower stages of the election campaign, i.e., during the election of electors in the big cities and of the one- per-ten-household representatives and delegates in the countryside. It does not arise in the big cities because here the importance of the elections is not at all determined by the number of deputies to be sent into the Duma, but by the opportunities for the Social-Democrats to address the widest and most concentrated sections of the population, which are the “most Social-Democratic” in virtue of their whole position.

In the countryside, the fact that the masses are politically undeveloped and amorphous, the sparse and scattered nature of the population, and the external conditions of the elections especially provoke the development of non-party (and non-party revolutionary) organisations, associations, circles, assemblies, opinions and strivings. Under these circumstances, blocs are quite unnecessary at the lower stages. Strict adherence to Party principle in all respects is the most correct and most expedient policy for Social-Democrats.

Thus, the general proposition that an alliance between the proletariat and the revolutionary peasantry is necessary leads us to the conclusion that the only agreements that are necessary are partial agreements (such as agreements with the Trudoviks against the Cadets) at the higher stages of the electoral system, i.e., in the assemblies of delegates and electors. The special features of the political divisions among the Trudoviks also recommend this solution of the problem.

In all these partial agreements the Social-Democrats must strictly distinguish between the different bourgeois-democratic parties and the various shades among them according to the degree of consistency and steadfastness of their democratic convictions.

The ideological and political content of the election campaign and of the partial agreements will lie in explaining   the theory of socialism and the independent, slogans of the Social-Democrats in the present revolution, both in regard to the aims of this revolution and the ways and means of achieving them.

This pamphlet was written before Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 5, had appeared. Prior to the issue of this number our Party had every reason to hope that the Central Committee of our Party would absolutely disapprove of first-stage agreements with bourgeois parties, agreements which should be impermissible for socialists. We could not help thinking so, for such an influential Menshevik as Comrade L. Martov had emphatically expressed his opposition to all agreements at the first stage, writing not only in Tovarishch, but also in a letter sent out from the Central Committee to the organisations (written by Martov) on the question of preparing for the election campaign.

It now turns out that our Central Committee has gone over to Cherevanin or, at least, has wavered. The leading article in Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 5, sanctions blocs at the first stage, without even indicating precisely with which bourgeois parties! Today’s (October 31) letter from Plekhanov, who for the purpose of defending a bloc with the Cadets has migrated to the Cadet newspaper Tovarishch, makes it clear to all whose influence it was that caused the Central Committee to waver. And Plekhanov, as usual, with the air of an oracle, delivers the most banal platitudes, entirely evading the class aims of the socialist proletariat (perhaps out of politeness to the bourgeois newspaper which has given him shelter), and does not even attempt to touch on concrete facts and arguments.

Will this “peremptory command” from Geneva be sufficient to cause the Central Committee to slip from Martov ... to Cherevanin?

Will the decision of the Unity Congress, which prohibited all agreements with bourgeois parties, be nullified by the Central Committee that was elected at that Congress?

The united election campaign of the Social-Democrats is threatened with serious danger.

The socialist workers’ party is threatened with the danger of first-stage agreements with the bourgeois parties, which will demoralise the Party and prove fatal to the class independence of the proletariat.

Let all revolutionary Social-Democrats rally and declare relentless war upon opportunist confusion and vacillation!


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