Proletary, No. 8, November 23, 1906.
Published according to the Proletary text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 302-306.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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Comrade workers, and all citizens of Russia! The Duma elections are approaching. The Social-Democratic Party, the party of the working class, calls upon you all to take part in the elections and so help to rally the forces that are really capable of fighting for freedom.
In our revolution the mass of the people are fighting against the rule of the government officials and the police, the landlords and the capitalists, and first and foremost against the autocratic tsarist government. The masses are fighting for land and liberty, for the overthrow of the gang of pogrom-mongers and executioners, who reply to the demands of millions and scores of millions of people by bribery, deception, brutal violence, imprisonment and military courts.
By their strike in October 1905, the workers of all Russia wrung from the tsar a promise of liberty and of a Duma with legislative powers. The tsarist government broke these promises. The electoral law curtailed the rights of the peasants and workers for the benefit of the landlords and capitalists. The powers of the Duma itself were reduced almost to nil. But even that is not the main thing. The main thing is that all these liberties and rights remained a dead letter, for real authority, real power remained as before wholly in the hands of the tsarist government. No Duma can or will give the people land and liberty as long as real power remains in the hands of the pogrom-mongers and throttlers of liberty.
This is why the revolutionary workers, together with the majority of the conscious fighters for liberty in other sections of the population, boycotted the Duma. The boycott of the Duma was an attempt to take the convocation of the people’s representatives out of the hands of the pogrom-mongers. The boycott of the Duma was a warning to the people not to believe in scraps of paper; it was a call to fight for real power. The boycott failed, because the liberal bourgeoisie betrayed the cause of liberty. The Cadets—the party of “people’s” freedom, that party of liberal landlords and “en lightened” bourgeois windbags—turned their backs on the heroic struggle of the proletariat, described as folly the risings of the peasantry and of the best units of the armed forces, and took part in the elections organised by the pogrom-mongers. Thanks to the treachery of the Cadet bourgeoisie, the whole people must reckon for a time with laws and elections which the pogrom-mongers have organised, which the pogrom-mongers have falsified and which the pogrom-mongers have converted into a mockery of the people.
In taking part in the elections now, however, we can and must open the eyes of the people to the necessity of a struggle for power, to the futility of the Cadets’ playing at constitutions. Citizens of all Russia! Reflect on the lessons that the First Duma has taught us!
The fighters for liberty and for land for the peasants were killed, exiled or imprisoned. The Cadets had a majority in the Duma. These liberal bourgeois were afraid of the struggle, were afraid of the people, were content to make speeches and present petitions; they appealed to the people to wait patiently; they endeavoured to make an agreement, to strike a bargain with the pogrom-mongers’ government. And the tsar, perceiving that he was dealing with cringing bourgeois and not with men of fighting spirit, sent them packing for making objectionable speeches.
Workers, peasants and all toilers! Do not forget this great lesson! Remember that in the autumn of 1905, when the revolutionary workers were at the head of the struggling people, when the workers’ strike and the workers’ uprising were reinforced by risings of peasants and politically-conscious soldiers, the government made concessions. But when, in the spring and summer of 1906, the people were headed by the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie, the Cadets, the party of vacillation between the power of the people and the power of the pogrom-mongers, then instead of obtaining concessions the deputies were booted out of the Duma by the police and the Duma was dissolved.
The dissolution of the Duma has clearly revealed to every one how futile and fruitless are Cadet petitions, and how necessary it is to support the struggle of the proletariat. By its strike in October the working class extorted a promise of freedom. Now it is mobilising its forces in order, by means of an uprising of the whole people, to wrest real freedom from the hands of the enemy, to overthrow the tsarist government, to establish a republic, to secure that all state authorities without exception are elected, and to convene through a provisional revolutionary government a national constituent assembly elected on the basis of universal, direct and equal suffrage by secret ballot.
The liberty for which the working class is fighting is liberty for the whole people, not merely for the nobility and the rich. The workers need liberty in order to launch a wide struggle for the complete emancipation of labour from the tyranny of capital, for the abolition of all exploitation of man by man, for a socialist system of society. As long as the rule of capital remains, no equality, not even equality of tenure for small peasant proprietors on the common land of the people, will save the people from poverty, unemployment and oppression. Only the solidarity of all the workers, supported b; the mass of the working people, can overthrow the yoke of capital, which is weighing so heavily on the workers of all countries. In socialist society, liberty and equality will no longer be a sham; the working people will no longer be divided by working in small, isolated, private enterprises; the wealth accumulated by common labour will serve the mass of the people and not oppress them; the rule of the workers will abolish all oppression of one nation, religion or sex by another.
Comrade workers, and all citizens of Russia! Make use of the elections to strengthen the real champions of liberty and socialism, to open the eyes of all to the real aims and the true character of the various parties!
Besides the Social-Democrats, three main groups of parties are taking part in the elections: the Black Hundreds, the Cadets, and the Trudoviks.
The Black Hundreds are the parties supporting the government. They stand for an autocratic monarchy, police rule and the perpetuation of landlordism. They are: the Monarchist Party, the Union of the Russian People, the Party of Law and Order, the Commercial and Industrial Party, the Union of October Seventeenth and the Party of Peaceful Renovation. These are all open enemies of the people, direct champions of the pogrom-mongers’ government, the government which dissolved the Duma, the government of military courts.
The Cadets (Constitutional-Democrats, or the “party of people’s freedom”) are the leading party of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie. The liberal bourgeoisie are oscillating between the people and the pogrom-mongers’ government. In words they oppose the government, but in fact what they fear most is the struggle of the people; they want to come to terms with the monarchy, i.e., with the pogrom-mongers, against the people. In the Duma the Cadets pro posed repressive laws against the press and against public meetings. In the Duma the Cadets were opposed to referring the land question to local committees elected on the basis of universal, direct and equal suffrage by secret ballot. The Cadets are liberal landlords, who are afraid that the peasants might settle the land question in their own way. Those who do not want the police regime to be able to disperse the people’s deputies, those who do not want the peasants to have to bear land redemption payments as ruinous as those of 1861, must see to it that the Second Duma will not be a Cadet Duma like the First.
The Trudoviks are parties and groups which express the interests and views of the small proprietors, mainly the small peasants. The most timid of these parties is the Toilers’ Popular Socialist Party; it is little better than the Cadets. Then follows the Duma “Trudovik Group”, the best members of which, such as Onipko, assisted in the popular uprising after the dissolution of the Duma. The most revolutionary of the Trudovik parties is the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. The Trudoviks are inclined resolutely—some times even to the point of an uprising—to uphold the interests of the peasant masses in their struggle for land and liberty, but in their activities they are by no means always able to shake off the influence of the liberal bourgeois and bourgeois views. The small proprietor stands at the parting of the ways in the great world-wide struggle between labour and capital. He has either to try to “get on in the world” in bourgeois fashion and become a master himself, or to try to help the proletariat overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie. We, the Social-Democrats, will use the elections to tell the peasant masses and all friends of the peasantry that the only way by which the peasants will be able to get land and liberty is not through petitions, but by fighting, not by relying on the tsar and the promises of the liberal bourgeoisie, but by relying on the power of a united struggle shoulder to shoulder with the working class.
The Social-Democratic Party is the party of the class-conscious, militant proletariat. It has no faith in any promises of the bourgeoisie; it seeks salvation from poverty and want not through the consolidation of small production, but through the united struggle of all the working people for socialism.
Comrade workers, and all of you who are employees of capital! You have all seen that when the government deprived you of the beginnings of liberty the bourgeoisie proceeded to deprive the workers of all their gains, to increase hours and cut wages again, to increase fines, to tighten the screw generally, to harass or dismiss class-conscious workers. Only by the triumph of liberty can the workers and office employees safeguard what they have won from the bourgeoisie, and secure an eight-hour day, higher wages, and tolerable conditions of life. And only by a united, concerted, supremely heroic struggle at the head of the mass of the working people can the working class win real liberty for the whole people.
Comrade workers, and all citizens of Russia! Vote for the candidates of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party! It is a party that is fighting for complete freedom, for a republic, for the election of government officials by the people. It is fighting against all national oppression. It is fighting for all the land to be given to the peasantry with out compensation. It is supporting all the demands of the politically conscious sailors and soldiers by fighting to secure the abolition of the standing army and the substitution for it of the armed nation.
Comrade workers, and all citizens of Russia! Vote for the candidates of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party!