V. I.   Lenin


Published: Vperyod, No 14, June 10, 1906. Published according to the Vperyod text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 20-23.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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The Social-Democratic Group in the State Duma is on the eve of taking action. Undoubtedly, this Group can now render the cause of the working-class movement and of the revolution a great service by its bold and consistent utterance, by proclaiming with unmistakable clarity the demands and slogans of consistent democracy and of the proletarian class struggle for socialism. Now that the question of Social-Democratic action in the Duma has been decided by the Unity Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, there can be no two opinions among Social-Democrats about this. And we think that our Caucasian comrades were quite right to sign the notorious “solemn pledge” of the members of the State Duma[2] and to state in the press in this connection that “we are signing this in order to be able to fulfil the mission with which the people have entrust ed us, and we emphasise that the only political obligations we recognise are obligations to the people”.

The more important the actions of our representatives in the Slate Duma become for the Party, the more carefully must we weigh the principles of Social-Democratic tactics at the present time. It must be admitted that the course of political events, which has become exceptionally rapid in the past few weeks, throws considerable light on questions which only yesterday were still unclear; it helps us clearly and precisely to define our position, and removes many of the disagreements between the Right and Left wings of our Party.

In this connection we are particularly pleased to emphasise the arguments of former Menshevik comrades in to day’s issue of Kuryer.[3] True, the leading article, “Duma   ’Laws’", starts with a somewhat ambiguous protest against describing the drafting of laws for the Duma as useless chatter; but it turns out that the comrades had good reason for putting the word “laws” in inverted commas. They support— and they are a thousand times right in doing so—the drafting of laws that will not be laws in the ordinary sense, but “declarations” that “proclaim the right of the people to freedom”, “proclaim the abolition of the old barriers”.

Perhaps it would be more correct to call such “laws”, not laws, but appeals to the people. But it would be unreasonable to stress disagreements on terminology when agreement prevails on the main issue. And on this, agreement is actually complete. “It is absolutely absurd and harmful,” writes Kuryer, “to submit to the Duma Bills carefully drawn up in minutest detail, with scores and hundreds of paragraphs, remarks and so forth” (all italics ours). Quite so. Such activities, customarily called “constructive” are certainly harmful. They are harmful “because instead of presenting striking contrasts that everyone can see, such Bills hopelessly confuse the mind of the public with a welter of clauses and paragraphs”.

This is quite true. The mind of the public is indeed hopelessly confused with the welter of “constructive” legislative project-mongering. This project-mongering obscures, blunts and corrupts the mind of the public, for “in any case, these laws will never be put into operation. Before that can be done, power must be wrested from the hands of those who now hold it. And this power can be wrested from those hands only by a popular movement that will put in the place of the Duma itself a far more powerful and democratic institution, which will not be obliged to reckon with the ’laws’ drawn up by the Duma." This statement shifting public attention to the absolute necessity of wresting power and of establishing a “far more powerful” institution that will not reckon with the laws drawn up by the Cadet Duma, very correctly appraises the fundamental tasks of the revolutionary proletariat and the requirements of the present situation.

In this same article, the comrades of Kuryer brilliantly trounce the Cadets for failing to understand these tasks. The Cadets draft their Bills “like real legislators, forgetting   that they have not even a farthing’s worth of real legislative power”. “They draft their ’Bills’ as if the courts tomorrow will have to try citizens according to the new Cadet laws.”

Kuryer tells the Cadets that their position is disgraceful. There is only one conclusion to be drawn from this thrice correct admonition, and that conclusion suggests itself. Revolutionary Social-Democrats cannot and must not sup port the demand for the appointment of a responsible Cabinet representing the majority in the Duma! For such a Cabinet will be a Cadet Cabinet, and on the very morrow of its appointment it will have to draw up penalties for abuses of freedom. At the present time, when the Star Chamber[4] is still the power in the land, such a Cabinet can only serve as a liberal screen for the old regime. At the present time, such a Cabinet would only serve as a new cloak to conceal these same pogrom-mongers for a time! We should, of course, very soon expose this disguise. We shall take the utmost advantage of the new situation when it arises, when not only the old regime, but the Cadets, too, are entangled in this new cloak and are overwhelmed by the tide. But we, the party of the proletariat, must not, directly or indirectly, avowedly or tacitly, assume the slightest responsibility for this attempt to disguise the old regime. We must not issue to the masses the slogan of supporting the demand for the formation of a responsible Cabinet representing the majority in the Duma. Whatever our intentions, owing to the objective conditions of the present political situation such a slogan will inevitably mean that the party of the proletariat will have to bear part of the responsibility for this disguise, for this deal between the bourgeoisie and the old regime. Such a slogan will indirectly imply approval of the Cadet “Bills” that are so excellently criticised in Kuryer; for indeed it cannot be denied that there is a connection between the Cadets’ plan to punish abuses of freedom and their plan to obtain, in the shape of a Cabinet, a modicum of power for applying these penalties; to obtain a modicum of power from the old regime, for the strengthening of the old regime, by means of a deal with the old regime, in the shape of a screen shielding it from the onslaught of the people against it.

The workers’ party needs no such slogan. It will be able to carry on all its propaganda and agitation activities among the masses and build up wide organisations far better, far more integrally, systematically and boldly without such a slogan, by countering the effrontery of the pogrom-mongers and the “Bills” of the Cadets by means of our Social-Democratic “decrees”, “proclamations” and appeals to the people through the medium of the Social-Democratic Group in the Duma (and, under certain conditions, of the Trudoviks acting in conjunction with it), and lastly, by issuing those “calls to the people to form a popular militia, which alone will be capable of protecting their lives and honour”—the calls that we recommended in Vperyod,[5] No. 9,[1] which are recommended by Volkszeitung,[6] the organ of the Bund, and of which Kuryer quite rightly approves.

Let us have unity, comrades! The unity of the political actions of the proletariat is growing with irresistible force, under the pressure of the whole revolutionary atmosphere. Let us not hinder this unity by introducing unnecessary and controversial slogans into our tactics. Let us take advantage of the present opportunity to secure complete agreement among all Social-Democrats at this moment, which will perhaps prove to be a supreme moment in the great Russian revolution!


[1] See present edition, Vol. 10 pp. 510-11.—Ed.

[2] The “solemn pledge” included in Article 13 of the Statute on the Duma had to be signed by all members of the State Duma. It contained an undertaking on the part of the deputies to fulfil the obligations imposed on them while “remaining faithful” to the tsar. The Caucasian Social-Democratic deputies to the First State Duma, after signing the “solemn pledge”, published in the press the statement quoted by V. I. Lenin. (See Kuryer, No. 20, June 8 (21), 1906.)

[3] Kuryer (The Courier)—a legal Menshevik daily newspaper issued in St. Petersburg in May-June 1906.

[4] The “Star Chamber” was the name given to the special high court in England for political and religious matters which was abolished by the English Revolution of the seventeenth century.

In the period 1905-07 in Russia the name “Star Chamber” was applied to the Court clique of reactionary dignitaries representing the upper ranks of the feudal landlords and bureaucrats.

[5] Vperyod (Forward)—a legal Bolshevik daily newspaper published in St. Petersburg from May 26 (June 8), 1906, in place of the newspaper Volna (The Wave), which had been closed down by the government. The leading part in the newspaper was taken by V. I. Lenin. Contributors included M. S. Olminsky, V. V. Vorovsky and A. V. Lunacharsky. The newspaper was subjected to police persecution; with No. 17 of June 14 (27), 1906, it was closed down. The Bolshevik newspaper Ekho appeared in its place.

[6] Volkszeitung—a daily newspaper in Yiddish, the organ of the Bund, published in Wilno from February 19 (March 4), 1906, to August 19 (September 1), 1907.

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