V. I.   Lenin

The Duma and the People

Published: Vperyod, No. 15, June 11, 1906. Published according to the Vperyod text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 24-26.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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The speech delivered by Comrade Ramishvili, the Social-Democratic Deputy in the State Duma, contains some very true observations that correctly define Social-Democratic tactics. The speaker not only denounced the government of pogrom-mongers with the vigour of a genuine representative of the proletariat, he not only branded the representatives of the government as “enemies of the people”—and the new attempt of the Cadet Chairman of the Duma to restrict freedom of speech evoked the legitimate protest of the extreme Left—but in addition, in concluding his speech, he raised the general question of the relation between the Duma and the people.

This is what the Social-Democratic Deputy said on this question:

“I conclude by stating that we are backed by the people. Outside something is going on that is entirely different from what we are doing here in this Chamber. The atmosphere outside is entirely different. Here it is much milder; here a more peaceful mood prevails. In a month from now, perhaps, we ourselves will be deciding our affairs.... The facts of life speak much more loudly about what is going on around us than we do here. I say that we are standing between the government and the people. The Duma is a dangerous spot. To go to the Left or to the Bight means conciliation with someone, or a rupture with someone.... You must not forget that the people themselves will obtain what the Duma cannot obtain owing to its wavering and lack of determination. I say that the people are in a different mood from that which prevails here....”

We have italicised the particularly important passages in this speech. The speaker quite rightly said that the facts of life speak much more loudly than the Duma does; that the atmosphere outside is not as “peaceful”, and that “the   people are in a different mood”. That is undoubtedly true. And the deduction that follows from this truth is that those who say that the people must support the Duma are wrong. The people are already ahead of the Duma, are speaking louder, are less peacefully inclined, are fighting more vigorously. Hence, the only correct definition of the task of the Social-Democrats is: to explain to the widest possible mass of the people that the Duma only timidly and inadequately expresses the demands of the people. Only such a formulation of Social-Democratic tactics relieves the party of the proletariat of responsibility for the instability of the Cadets. Only such a formulation, which fully allows for the degree of development of the political consciousness, determination and preparedness of the peasant masses, adequately conforms to the great tasks of the present moment, a moment concerning which the elected representatives of the Social-Democratic proletariat bluntly say: “In a month from now, perhaps, we ourselves will be deciding our affairs.” To be able to decide them, however, we must at once completely dissociate ourselves from all either dishonest or unwise attempts to seek a “peaceful” solution.

Comrade Ramishvili was quite right when he declared from the rostrum of the Duma: “The Duma is a dangerous spot.” Why? Because it displays “wavering and lack of determination”. And at a time when, in a month from now, perhaps, the people themselves will have to decide their affairs, wavering and lack of determination is positively criminal. Whoever displays these qualities at such a time will inevitably find himself in an extremely false position, no matter how sincere his intentions may have been. It does not depend on our will that at such a moment all the economic and political conditions surrounding us inevitably give rise to a decisive struggle between the people and the old regime. Whoever wavers in face of this impending struggle will, indeed, have to choose between the alternative of “conciliation with someone or a rupture with someone”. This is exactly the position that the Cadets are in. The liberal bourgeoisie is reaping what it has been sowing for years by its double-faced and vacillating policy, and by its desertions from revolution to counter-revolution. Conciliation with the old regime means a rupture with the fighting people.   A rupture with the old regime is what would be essential for conciliation with the fighting people.

The majority in the Duma has been doing everything to make its position clear in this inexorable choice. Every step this Cadet, and sometimes even worse than Cadet, majority takes in its policy is in preparation for a rupture with the fighting people, preparation for conciliation with the old regime. These steps are small ones, we shall be told. But they are real steps in real politics, we shall reply. These steps conform to all the fundamental class interests of the liberal bourgeoisie. And the Cadets’ demand for a Duma Cabinet appointed by the old regime bears precisely this “peaceful” character.

We shall never tire of repeating that it would be stupid and harmful for the workers’ party to support this demand. Stupid, because the only thing that is really weakening the old regime is the struggle of the people, who are going further than the timid Duma. Harmful, because it will sow deception and confusion in the minds of the people. Yesterday we pointed out that the comrades of Kuryer were right in stating that the Bills drafted by the Cadets were stupid and harmful.[1] Today it is to be regretted that these same comrades are advocating support for a Duma Cabinet, that is to say, a Cabinet that will carry through these stupid and harmful Bills!

Perhaps we shall examine these vacillations of Kuryer in greater detail another time. For the time being, it will be sufficient to point to them; the very fact that there is wavering at an important moment like the present shows that the position of the waverers is extremely precarious.


[1] See pp. 20-23 of this volume.—Ed.

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