V. I.   Lenin

The Workers’ Group in the State Duma

Published: Volna, No. 13, May 10, 1908. Published according to the Volna text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 402-405.
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.
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In the State Duma there is a Workers’ Group of fifteen. How did these deputies get into the Duma? They were not nominated by workers’ organisations. The Party did not authorise them to represent its interests in the Duma. Not a single local organisation of the R.S.D.L.P. adopted a resolution (although it might have done) to nominate its members for the State Duma.

The worker deputies got into the Duma through non-party channels. Nearly all, or even all, got in by direct or indirect, tacit or avowed, agreements with the Cadets. Many of them got into the Duma in such a way that it is difficult to tell whether they were elected as Constitutional-Democrats or as Social-Democrats. This is a fact, and a fact of enormous political importance. To hush it up, as many Social-Democrats are doing today, is unpardonable and use less. Unpardonable, because it means keeping in the dark the electorate generally, and the workers’ party in particular. Useless, because the fact is bound to come out in the course of events.

In declaring that the formation of a Social-Democratic parliamentary group was desirable, the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. made a mistake by not taking this fact into account. As is evident from the resolution of the Left Social-Democrats[1] that we published yesterday, this fact was pointed out at the Congress. But it must be stated in fairness that on the insistence of the Left wing, the Congress adopted a very important instruction to the Central Committee of the Party. The failure to print this resolution has left a very serious gap in the Central Committee’s publication,   from which we reproduced the Congress resolutions. The resolution on the parliamentary group instructs the Central Committee to inform all Party organisations (I) whom, (2) when and (3) on what conditions the Central Committee recognises as the Party’s representative in the State Duma. Further, it instructs the Central Committee to give the Party periodical reports of the activities of the parliamentary group, and lastly, it imposes on those workers’ organisations to which the Social-Democratic members of the State Duma belong the duty of exercising special control over these members.

Having mentioned this extremely important resolution, let us proceed to examine the question of the Workers’ Group in the Duma. On entering the Duma, Mikhailichenko, the leader of this group, proclaimed himself a Social-Democrat. Through him the Workers’ Group clearly expressed its desire to dissociate itself from the Cadets and become a genuine Social-Democratic group.

Such a desire is worthy of all sympathy. At the Congress we were opposed to the formation of an official parliamentary group. Our motives are set out precisely and in detail in our resolution published yesterday. But it goes without saying that the fact that we did not think it opportune to form an official parliamentary group does not in the least prevent us from encouraging any desire of any workers’ representative to shift from the Constitutional-Democrats towards the Social-Democrats.

But there is some distance between desire and fulfilment. It is not enough to proclaim oneself a Social-Democrat. To be a Social-Democrat, one must pursue a genuinely Social-Democratic workers’ policy. Of course, we fully understand the difficulties of the position of parliamentary novices. We are well aware of the need to be indulgent to wards the mistakes that may be made by those who are be ginning to pass from the Constitutional-Democrats to the Social-Democrats. But if they are destined ever to complete this passage, it will only be through open and straight forward criticism of these mistakes. To look at these mistakes through one’s fingers would be an unpardonable transgression against the Social-Democratic Party and against the whole proletariat.

We must mention at once one mistake that the Workers’ Group in the Duma has made. A few days after the vote on the reply to the address from the throne the members of the Workers’ Group declared in the press that “they had abstained from voting, but had not made a demonstration of their refusal to vote, because they did not want to be confused with Count Heyden’s[2] group”. The Cadets are a party that wavers between revolution and reaction. The Heydens on the right and the Social-Democrats on the left must, and always will, demonstrate against this party. The Workers’ Group made a mistake by not making a demonstration. Over the heads of the Cadets, it should have openly and plainly stated for all to hear: “You, gentlemen of the Cadet Party, are taking the wrong tone. Your address smacks of a deal. Drop that diplomacy. Speak out loudly and say that the peasants are demanding all the land, that the peasants must obtain all the land without compensation. Say that the people are demanding complete freedom, and that the people will take full power in order to ensure real freedom, and not merely freedom on paper. Do not trust written ’constitutions’, trust only the strength of the fighting people! We vote against your address.”

Had the Workers’ Group said this, it would have per formed an act of genuine Social-Democratic workers’ policy. By doing so, it would have expressed the interests not only of the workers, but of the whole revolutionary people, which is fighting for freedom. And concerning the rejection of the request for an audience, it would have been able to say: “See, Cadet gentlemen, you have received a good lesson! You are properly punished for the wrong tone of your ad dress. If you continue in the same key, the day will not be far distant when the people will speak of you ’with the withering scorn of the disillusioned son for his garrulous father’.”[3]

We say again, in order to avoid malicious misinterpretation, that we are criticising the conduct of the Workers’ Group, not to reproach its members, but to assist the political development of the Russian proletariat and peasantry.

And with the same object in view, we must point to a serious mistake made by Nevskaya Gazeta. “We cannot regard the incident over the address,” writes that paper,   "as an excuse for stopping the activities of the Duma”.... “We see no ground for putting the question bluntly just now” (No. 6). This is the wrong tone. It is unseemly for Social-Democrats to pose as people who can in any way be responsible for the Duma. If the Social-Democrats had a majority in the Duma, the Duma would not be a Duma, or else the Social-Democrats would not be Social-Democrats. Let the Cadets bear all the responsibility for the Duma. Let the people learn to cast off constitutional illusions at their expense, and not ours.

You yourselves say, comrades: “The proletariat will not agree to the Milyukovs being left free to strike a bargain with the old regime.” Well spoken. But what, in substance, are the bargains struck by the Cadets? Not personal acts of treachery, of course. Such a crude opinion is utterly alien to Marxism. The substance of the bargains is (and is only) that the Cadets don’t abandon, and don’t want to abandon, their stand for preserving the old regime and for obeying the commands of this regime. The Cadets, so long as they remain Cadets, are quite right when they say: to abandon this position means putting the question bluntly, providing an excuse for stopping the activities of the Duma.

It is unseemly for Social-Democrats to argue in a way that might give the people cause for seeing in their arguments a justification of the Cadets. It is not our business to justify their’ hypocritical statements that it was all a question of the Duma’s “politeness” and Trepov’s “rudeness” (Struve in Duma). We must expose that hypocrisy, and show that the “first lesson” which the Cadets have received is a result of the intrinsic duplicity of their whole position, of their entire address. We must not appraise the revolutionary situation in the country from the standpoint of what goes on in the Duma. On the contrary, we must appraise questions and incidents that arise in the Duma from the standpoint of the revolutionary situation in the country.


[1] See pp. 292-93 of this volume—Ed.

[2] Count Heyden’s group—the “Left” wing of the Octobrist group in the First Duma; it included several Right Cadets. At the Duma session on May 5(18), 1906, during the discussion of the reply to the address from the throne, the Heyden group refused to vote for the text of the reply, couched by the Cadets in constitutional-monarchist terms, for it considered the text too radical, and left the session. Following the dissolution of the Duma the group organised itself into the Party of Peaceful Renovation, which stood close to the Octobrists. Lenin gave a political characterisation of Heyden and his group in the article “In memory of Count Heyden” (see present edition, Vol. 13.)

[3] The words in quotation marks are a paraphrase of the closing lines of Lermontov’s poem “Meditation” (Duma in Russian) (see M. Y. Lermontov, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Moscow, 1934, p. 7).

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