V. I.   Lenin

The Social-Democratic Election Victory in Tiflis

Published: Volna, No. 17, May 14, 1906. Published according to the Volna text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 423-425.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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Telegrams from Tiflis report that the Social-Democrats in that city have achieved a complete victory in the elections. Of the 81 electors who were elected, 72 are Social-Democrats, and only 9 are Cadets.[2] In Kutais four deputies have been elected, Social-Democrats all.[3] The candidate for the Duma nominated for Tiflis is Noah Jordania, a very influential Social-Democrat in that city.

We welcome the successes of our comrades in the Caucasus. After the decision of the Unity Congress of our Party, participation in the elections became obligatory, on the condition, however, that the workers’ party did not enter into any blocs, i.e., agreements, with other parties.[4] If our comrades in the Caucasus have secured the election of their candidates quite independently, as one may believe was the case in Tiflis, then they have avoided the mistakes made by our comrades in Armavir.[5] In that case the decision of the Congress will have been fully adhered to; we shall have in the Duma truly Party Social-Democrats, elected on strictly Party lines; and soon we shall hear of the appointment by the Central Committee of the official representatives of our Party in the Duma.

Our readers know that we were in favour of boycotting the Duma. At the Congress we voted against the formation of a Social-Democratic parliamentary group, for reasons that were given in detail in the resolution published in Volna, No. 12.[1] These reasons did not involve matters of principle; they were prompted by considerations of prudence   and the practical conditions prevailing. But it goes without saying that, if real party Social-Democrats have now been elected to the Duma on really party lines, all of us, as members of a united party, will do all we can to help them to fulfil their arduous duties.

Let us not exaggerate the importance of the Tiflis victory. We could rejoice whole-heartedly at the parliamentary victories of Social-Democrats if we were really living under conditions of anything like a “serious” and established parliamentary system. But this is not the case in Russia. The present conditions in Russia impose on the Social-Democrats tasks of a magnitude that no Social-Democratic Party in Western Europe has to face. We are incomparably more remote than our Western comrades from the socialist revolution; but we are faced with a bourgeois-democratic peasant revolution in which the proletariat will play the leading role. As an inevitable result of these specific features of the situation, it is not in the Duma that the rapidly maturing political crisis will be solved.

In times such as Russia is now passing through, the participation of Social-Democrats in the elections does not at all mean that the masses really become stronger in the course of the election campaign. Without unfettered news papers, without public meetings and without wide agitation, the election of Social-Democrats often expresses, not a consolidation of the proletarian and fully Social-Democratic Party, but only a sharp protest of the people. In such circumstances, large sections of the petty-bourgeoisie some times vote for any anti-government candidate. Opinions on the value of the boycott tactics for the whole of Russia, if based on the returns of the Tiflis elections alone, would be much too rash and ill-considered.

Nobody can tell as yet what overall role the Cadet Duma will play in the long run. That the Cadets are masters in the Duma is a fact. All Social-Democrats are agreed that the Cadets in the Duma are behaving like bad democrats, like timid and inconsistent, unstable and wavering partisans of people’s freedom. Being in command of the Duma, the Cadets are now more than ever spreading constitutional illusions among the people, and thereby befogging the political consciousness of the workers and peasants.

Let us wait and see what experience shows before judging of the extent to which it will be possible to counteract these reactionary strivings of the Cadets within the Duma as well. Let us wish our comrades from the Caucasus, deputies to the Duma, for the first time to speak from this new platform in full voice, to speak the whole, bitter truth, to ex pose ruthlessly belief in words, promises and scraps of paper, to fill the gaps in our newspapers, which continue to be restricted and persecuted for speaking frankly, and to call upon the proletariat and the revolutionary peasantry to pose their problems clearly and distinctly and to settle the impending final contest for freedom outside the Duma.


[1] See pp. 292-93 of this volume—Ed.

[2] The information supplied by the St. Petersburg Telegraph Agency on the elections in Tiflis and used by Lenin in his article was inaccurate.   The number of electors elected in Tiflis was not 81 but 80, of whom 71 were Social-Democrats and 9, Cadets.

[3] The reference is to the election of electors in Kutais. Elections to the First Duma took place later. Kutais Gubernia sent three deputies to the Duma—l. G. Gomarteli, S. D. Japaridze and I. I. Ramishvili, Mensheviks all.

[4] Lenin is referring to the resolution “Attitude Towards the State Duma”, which said: “...wherever elections are still ahead and the R.S.D.L.P. can nominate its candidates without entering into blocs with other parties, it should strive to have its candidates elected to the Duma” (The Fourth [Unity] Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., Russ. ed., Moscow, 1959, p. 526).

[5] The reference is to the disruptive conduct of the Menshevik Armavir Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., which violated the Unity Congress decision forbidding blocs with bourgeois parties. During the Duma elections the Armavir Committee issued an appeal proposing to vote for the Social-Democrats, or at least for candidates who were “not more to the right than the Cadets”.

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