V. I.   Lenin

The St. Petersburg City Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. (II)

Late February (Early March) 1906

Published: First published in 1931 in Proletarskaya Revolutsia, No. 1 (108). Published according to the secretary’s notes, now in the archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 123-126.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README


Statements in Defence of the Resolution on the Tactics of Boycott


The resolution is lengthy—“long-winded”, as Comrade Dan put it. That is true; but it has a merit compensating for this defect—the resolution examines all the arguments, without which the explanation of the tactics would be superficial, and would be wrong. The masses want brevity, but this resolution is for the organisations and not for the masses. Not all the points have been debated, but all of them have been touched upon. It is necessary to expound the whole set of views advocated in political agitation. There can be no question of the majority suppressing the minority in any way, although the position of the defeated section is not a happy one. As a way out, I can propose a division of labour: you will criticise the Duma, and we shall elaborate the tactics. No one wants to impose on Comrade Dan the defence of points he does not agree with. The accusation of engaging in factionalism and polemics is groundless.


There is also a polemic in the short resolution (Martov’s), but why do you want to make us ridiculous by proposing that we should adopt it? The long draft resolution seems   to contain propositions that have not been discussed by the proletariat. But the dummy made by the Rasterayev workers mocked at the very idea of representation,[1] and they must have been thinking of the peasantry as well.

Objections to the Amendments to Points 3 and 6 of the Draft Resolution


You are weakening the resolution; the government is not only obstructing the elections, it is also planting rural superintendents[2] as delegates.


Comrade Dan’s amendment is inexact. The Union of October Seventeenth[3] is an opposition group, but it is not persecuted. We must stand up for the Cadets if they are persecuted, even if they are persecuted for no particular reason.


Zubatovism”[4] is not merely a police form of netting suspects, for it takes account of the working-class movement; it is an organisation of the working class. “Zubatovism” is a truly Russian invention. And it is being used now too. The Duma is a police game, but there is no hint of a constitution in it. Speaking generally, the term “Zubatovism” has been used here for comparison and is therefore incomplete as a definition. Besides, we do say that it is a “new” form of all-Russian, state “Zubatovism”. Our tactics here are the same as they have always been in relation to “Zubatovism”. We have attended even Zubatovist meetings, hut we have never been members.


Statements During the Debate on Points 7 and 8 of the Draft Resolution


Comrade Dan’s statement about a factual inaccuracy is something quite new to me. So far no formal statement has been made anywhere of the permissibility of “participating in the Duma”.[5] Neither Parvus, nor even Plekhanov. has said that so far. Furthermore, it would be narrow-minded of us to ignore the fact that the class-conscious section of the proletariat has this opinion of the issue and no other, and we take that fact into consideration, it is not accidental. I am willing to amend “everyone” to “the overwhelming majority”.


Comrade Dan’s formal statement is particularly valuable to me, it is the first time I have heard such a statement. One can only wish to see it in the press, for the press has so far published no such thing. Indeed, the Mensheviks have protested whenever such an opinion was attributed to them. The leaflet of the Joint Central Committee affirms that both sections of the Party are agreed that we must not go into the Duma. It is a document, and nothing contradicts it in the relevant point of our resolution. Dan’s remark about Plekhanov is wrong. He merely said: “I am against boycott”, and came to a stop at the most interesting point. We are sufficiently well informed, and the allusion to Poltava has not shaken our opinion of the view taken by the majority of the proletariat on the question of participating in the Duma. Solidarity must be stressed.


Dan believes that the very convocation of the Duma will bring back the year 1849. He is wrong. The Duma is the United Landtag of 1847,[6] and that Landtag we will not enter. I think we must take Lunacharsky’s remarks into consideration. I believe we should answer three questions: (1) Is it a fact that the majority is right? Yes, it is; no one has refuted us, all that has been said is groundless and cannot serve as a sufficient reason for crossing out the reference to   the fact. (2) Should we take this fact into account? We must. (3) What is the attitude of the editorial board of the Central Organ to the question touched on in this point of the preamble? I maintain that the editorial board regarded participation in the Duma as impossible. I had no idea this would offend the Menshevik comrades so much; so far no one has ever said anything like what Comrade Dan said. Comrade Dan is wavering, and I feel very unhappy about it.


It is said that the rest is full of polemics. That is not true, we would never pursue any such aims. Why must we not go into the Duma? Because the people may imagine that it is worth going to the polls irrespective of what the Menshevik comrades think of the people. We are not bickering, we are examining an argument. We hold that we must send nothing but dummies.

Written Statement to the Conference Bureau

Statement of fact. I declare that Comrade Dan’s assertions are wrong and that he has not refuted any of my statements about the absence in the press of assertions similar to the statement made by Comrade Dan.

Resolution on the Motivation of the Boycott Tactics

This Conference deems it necessary to give a detailed motivation of the decision of the St. Petersburg Social-Democratic organisation on the inadvisability of participating in the elections, not at all in order to engage in polemics with the comrades who were formerly Mensheviks or to cast aspersions on them as Social-Democrats, but with the aim of giving an accurate and official statement of the opinion of the majority of the organisation as to the character and significance of a complete boycott.


[1] Lenin has in mind the following indication of the workers’ ironical attitude to the Duma: in February 1906 workers at the St. Petersburg Mechanical Works made a dummy inscribed “Deputy to State Duma” and paraded it round the premises.

[2] Rural superintendent (zemsky nochalnik)— an administrative office instituted by the tsarist government in 1889 to strengthen the authority of the landlords over the peasants. The rural superintendents were appointed from among the local landed nobility and were granted very great powers—not merely administrative, but also judicial—with regard to the peasants.

[3] Union of October Seventeenth, or Octobrists—a counter-revolutionary party of the big industrial bourgeoisie and the big landlords using capitalist methods of farming. It arose in November 1905. While accepting in theory the Manifesto of October 17, in which the tsar, frightened by the revolution, promised the people “civil liberties” and a constitution, the Octobrists unquestioningly backed the home and foreign policies of the tsarist government.Their leaders were A. Guchkov, a big industrialist, and M. Rodzyanko, owner of huge estates.

[4] Zubatovism—the policy of “police socialism”, so named after Colonel Zubatov, chief of the Moscow Secret Police, on whose initiative legal workers’ organisatoins were formed in 1901-03 to divert the workers from the political struggle against the autocracy. Zubatov’s activity in this field was supported by V. K. Plehve, Minister of the Interior. The Zubatovists sought to direct the working-class movement into the narrow channel of purely economic demands, and suggested to the workers that the government was willing to meet those demands. The first Zubatovist organisation— the Society for Mutual Assistance of Mechanical Industry Workers—was set up in Moscow in May 1901. Similar organisations were founded in Minsk, Odessa, Vilno, Kiev and other cities.

The revolutionary Social-Democrats, in exposing the reactionary character of Zubatovism, used legal workers’ organisations to draw large sections of the working class into the struggle against the autocracy. The growing revolutionary movement in 1903 compelled the tsarist government to abolish the Zubatovist organisations.

[5] Speaking at the St. Petersburg City Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. (II), held late in February and early in March 1906, Dan, a Menshevik leader, openly declared for the first time that it was permissible to participate in the Duma. He referred to the stand of the Poltava Social-Democratic organisation, which had expressed itself to that effect. Until then, the Mensheviks had formally advanced the half-way slogan: participate in the election of delegates and electors, but not in the Duma elections.

[6] United Landtag of 1847—the joint assembly of the social-estate provincial Landtags, convened by Friedrich Wilhelm IV in Berlin in April 1847 to overcome financial difficulties by obtaining a foreign loan. It opened on April 11, 1847. As the king refused to meet the humblest political demands of the bourgeois majority in the Landtag, the latter refused to guarantee the loan. The king reacted by dissolving the Landtag in June of the same year, which increased oppositionist sentiment in the country and hastened the revolution.

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