V. I.   Lenin

The Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

April 10 (23)-April 25 (May 8), 1906



Co-Report on the Question of the Attitude Towards the State Duma

Comrades, I will not read you the Bolshevik resolution, as in all probability you are all familiar with it. (Nevertheless, in response to requests from delegates, the speaker reads the Bolshevik resolution again.) If you compare this resolution with that of the Mensheviks, you will find the following four main points of difference, or four main defects in the latter:

(1) The Menshevik resolution contains no appraisal of the elections, no assessment of the objective results of our political experience in this field.

(2) This resolution is permeated with an imprudent, to put it mildly, or optimistic attitude towards the State Duma.

(3) The resolution does not clearly distinguish the various trends or parties among the bourgeois democrats, from the point of view of our tactics towards them.

(4) Your resolution proposes that a parliamentary group be formed under conditions and at a time when the value of such a step for the proletarian party cannot in any way be proved.

Such are the real disagreements between us, if we examine our disagreements seriously, and not seize upon words or trivialities.

Let us examine these four points.

It is highly important to sum up our experience of the elections if we want to base our conclusions on the actual alignment of political forces, and not on general phrases about parliamentarism in general, and so forth. We have advanced, and advance today, the very definite proposition   that participation in the elections really means supporting the Cadets; that participation is impossible without blocs with the Cadets. Do you analyse the substance of this pro position? Do you examine the situation in the light of the actual facts on this question? Nothing of the kind. Axelrod completely evaded the first two points, and on the next two he made two contradictory statements. At first he referred to blocs with the Cadets in general in the most disparaging terms. Then he said that he would have no objection to such blocs, provided, of course, they were not arranged by the old hole-and-corner methods and backstairs agreements, but by public and direct methods visible to the whole proletariat. This last “proposition” of Axelrod’s is a magnificent specimen of “Cadet” dreaming, of real “pious wishes” engendered by constitutional illusions. In reality we have no constitution and no basis for open activities; what we have is Dubasov “constitutionalism”. Axelrod’s dreams will remain empty dreams, while the Cadets will obtain real benefit from the agreements, tacit or signed, formal or informal.

And when people talk about our “self-elimination” from the elections, they always forget that it was the political conditions and not our desire that kept our Party out; kept it out of newspapers and meetings; prevented us from putting up prominent members of the Party as candidates. In these circumstances, parliamentarism is a futile and pitiful game rather than a means of educating the proletariat. It is naive to take parliamentarism “in its pure form”, as an “idea”, isolated from the real situation.

When people talk about the elections they usually forget that actually the contest took place, on the basis of Dubasov constitutionalism, between two strong “parties”—the Cadets and the Black Hundreds. The Cadets were right when they told the voters that any split in the vote, any nomination of “third” candidates, could lead only to the victory of the Black Hundreds. Take the case of Moscow, for example. Guchkov receives, say, 900 votes and the Cadet, 1,300. It would have been enough for the Social-Democrats to obtain 401 votes for the Black-Hundred candidate to win. Thus the Cadets rightly understood the significance of Social- Democratic participation in the elections (they gave the Moscow workers a seat in the State Duma as a reward for   participating in the elections), while you Mensheviks misunderstand its significance and thus indulge in an empty and idle dream. Either don’t take up parliamentarism and don’t talk commonplaces about it, or take it up seriously. Your present position is no use at all.

The second point. Axelrod in his speech even more glaringly revealed the defects in the resolution that I have point ed to. The resolution speaks of transforming the Duma into an instrument of the revolution. You regard the Duma exclusively in the light of the pressure the government exercises on us, of the government’s efforts to crush the revolution. We regard the State Duma as a body that represents a definite class, as an institution that has a definite party composition. Your argument is absolutely wrong, incomplete and non-Marxist in its approach. You fail to take into account the Duma’s internal structure, which is conditioned by the class composition of the Cadet Party. You say that the government is strangling the revolution, but you forget to add that the Cadets have already fully displayed their desire to extinguish it. A Cadet Duma cannot but display the characteristics of the Cadet Party. You completely overlook the example of the Frankfurt Parliament which, although a representative institution in a revolutionary period, betrayed an obvious desire to extinguish the revolution (owing to the petty-bourgeois narrow-mindedness and cowardice of the Frankfurt windbags).

The reference to “authority recognised by the tsar and established by law”, is most unfortunate in a Social-Democratic resolution. The Duma is not really an authority. The reference to the law does not strengthen, but weakens your whole argument and all your agitational slogans that follow from this resolution. Witte will most readily of all appeal to the “law” and to the “will of the tsar”, in thwarting the slightest attempt of the Duma to go beyond the ridiculously narrow limits of its powers. Not the Social-Democrats, but Russkoye Gosudarstvo stands to gain by these references to the tsar and the law.

I come now to the third point. A fundamental mistake in the resolution, and one closely connected with all the preceding ones, is the absence of a clear characterisation of the Cadets, the refusal to expose all their tactics, the failure   to draw a distinction between the Cadets and the peasant and revolutionary democrats. Yet it is the Cadets who are masters of the situation in the present Duma. And these Cadets have already revealed more than once their betrayal of the “people’s freedom”. When, after the elections, the amiable windbag Vodovozov, wanting to be more Left than the Cadets, reminded the latter of the promises they had made about a constituent assembly, and so forth, Rech, adopting a “Great Power” tone, rudely and coarsely told him that it did not need gratuitous advice.

And your resolution is equally mistaken as regards the striving to weaken the revolution. As I have already said, this striving exists not only in the government, but also in those petty-bourgeois compromisers who are now making the most noise on the surface of our political life.

Your resolution says that the Duma is trying to lean on the people. This is only half true, and therefore not true at all. What is the State Duma? Is it tolerable that we should confine ourselves to general references to this institution, instead of analysing the classes and parties that actually determine its content and significance? Which Duma is striving to lean on the people? Not the Octobrist Duma, be cause such a striving is totally alien to the Octobrists. And not the peasant Duma, for the peasant deputies are an inseparable part of the people, and there is no need for them to “strive to lean on the people”. The striving to lean on the people is characteristic precisely of the Cadet Duma. But characteristic of the Cadets is both their striving to lean on the people and their tear of independent revolutionary activity by the people. By pointing to one aspect of the question and saying nothing at all about the second, your resolution presents not only a wrong, but a positively harmful picture. Objectively, silence on this second aspect—which is emphasised in our resolution on the attitude to be adopted towards other parties—is the utterance of a lie.

In defining our tactics towards the bourgeois democrats we cannot possibly remain silent about the Cadets, or refrain from criticising them sharply. We can, and must, seek the support only of the peasant and revolutionary democrats, and not of those who try to blunt the political contradictions of the present time.

Lastly, let us glance at the proposal to form a parliamentary group. Even the Mensheviks dare not deny that Social- Democrats must handle this new weapon, “parliamentarism”, very cautiously. They are quite ready to admit this “in principle”. But the point now is not admitting things in principle; the point is to make a correct appraisal of concrete conditions. Recognition of caution “in principle” is worth less if actual conditions transform this recognition into innocent and idle dreams. The comrades from the Caucasus, for example, talk very finely about independent elections, about purely Party candidates and about repudiating blocs with the Cadets. But what are these fine phrases worth when—as one of the comrades from the Caucasus in formed me in conversation—in Tiflis, that Menshevik stronghold in the Caucasus, the Left Cadet Argutinsky will probably be elected and, probably, not without the aid of the Social-Democrats? What good are our wishes for public and open statements before the masses if we only have—as we have now—the Partiiniye Izvestia of the Central Committee against a host of Cadet newspapers?

Note also that even the most optimistic Social-Democrats hope to get their candidates elected only through the peasant curia. Thus they want to “start parliamentarism” in the practice of the workers’ party with the petty-bourgeois, semi-Socialist-Revolutionary curia and not with the workers’ curia. Just think, which has most chance of emerging out of this situation—a Social-Democratic or a non-Social-Democratic workers’ policy?



  Draft Resolution on the State Duma Submitted to the Unity Congress | Speech on the Question of Armed Uprising  

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