V. I.   Lenin

The Victory of the Cadets and the Tasks of the Workers’ Party



The Social and Political Significance of the First Elections

The first political elections in Russia have very important political and social significance. But the Cadets, intoxicated by their victory, and totally submerged in constitutional illusions, are absolutely incapable of understanding the real significance of these elections.

First of all, let us see what class elements are grouped around the Cadets. On this question the elections provide highly instructive and valuable evidence, which is still far, very far, from being complete, however. Nevertheless, it already reveals some things that are worthy of special attention. The following are the returns of the election of electors up to March 18, i.e., before the elections in St. Petersburg. We have taken the figures from Russkiye Vedomosti.[5]

Number of electors elected by meetings of:
Political trend[1] City voters Landowners Total
Lefts . . . . . . . 268 128 396
Rights . . . . . . 118 172 290
Non-party . . . . . 101 178 279
Total . . . 487 478 965

Scanty as these figures are, they nevertheless show (and the St. Petersburg elections merely serve to confirm it) that the Russian liberation movement in general, and the Cadet Party in particular, is undergoing a social evolution. The centre of this movement is steadily shifting to the cities. The movement is becoming democratised. The “small fry” among the townspeople are coming to the forefront.

Among the landowners, the Rights predominate (if we assume that the non-party electors are evenly divided between the Lefts and the Rights, an assumption which, if any thing, errs on the side of pessimism rather than of optimism). Among the city voters, the Lefts predominate to a far greater extent.

The landlords have deserted the Cadets for the Union of October Seventeenth and other similar parties. On the other hand, the petty bourgeoisie, or at any rate, the urban petty bourgeoisie (no figures are yet available for the rural petty bourgeoisie, and it will be more difficult to obtain them before the Duma elections), is clearly coming into the political arena, and is clearly turning towards democracy. In the bourgeois liberation (and Osvobozhdeniye) movement of Zemstvo congresses, the landlords predominated; but the peasant revolts and the October revolution have now thrown back a large section of them definitely to the side of the counter-revolution. The Cadet Party remains a dual party— in it we see both urban petty bourgeoisie and liberal land lords: but the latter, apparently, are already a minority in the party. The petty-bourgeois democrats predominate.

Thus, with a large margin of probability, almost with certainty, we can draw the following two conclusions: first, that the petty bourgeoisie is taking shape politically, and is definitely opposing the government; second, that the Cadet Party is becoming the “Parliamentary” party of the petty-bourgeois democrats.

These two conclusions are not identical, as might appear at first sight. The second is much narrower than the first, for the Cadet Party does not comprise all the petty-bourgeois democratic elements, and moreover, it is only a “parliamentary” (i.e., of course, a quasi-parliamentary, mock-parliamentary) party. As for the significance of the St. Petersburg elections, there is an astonishing agreement among all witnesses; beginning with the pert Rus, which is flirting with radicalism, continuing with Mr. Nabokov, member of the Central Committee of the Cadet Party and candidate for the Duma, and ending with Novoye Vremya. All agree that the election returns are not so much a vote for the Cadets as a vote against the government. The Cadets achieved their victory largely because they were (thanks to Durnovo and Co.) the most extreme Left party in the field. The genuinely Left parties were kept out of the field by violence, arrests, massacres, the election law, and so forth. By the very force of circumstances, by the logic of the election struggle, all the discontented, irritated, angry and vaguely revolutionary elements were compelled to rally around the Cadets.[2] The combination of all the progressive electors with the Cadets that we made in the table given above is a reflection of what actually took place. Virtually there were two big forces contending: one for the government (the counter-revolutionary landlords, the capitalists, and the dehumanised officials), and the other against the government (the liberal landlords, the petty bourgeoisie, and all the vaguely revolutionary-democratic elements). That elements to the left of the Cadets voted for the latter is a fact that stands out   beyond doubt from the general picture of the St. Peters burg elections[3] ; it is confirmed by the direct evidence of numerous witnesses (the fact that the “common people” voted for “freedom”, and so on, and so forth), and it is borne out indirectly by the swing to the Cadet camp of the whole of the democratic press that stands slightly to the left of the Cadet press. Thus, while the core of the present Cadet Party consists of people who are certainly good for nothing better than toy-parliament oratory, this cannot be said about the bulk of the petty-bourgeois voters who voted for the Cadets. “Virtually, our experience is the same as that of the Social-Democrats during elections in Germany,” said a Cadet to the reporter of the Cadet (or semi-Cadet) Nasha Zhizn (No. 401, March 23). “Many people vote for them because they are the party most strongly opposed to the government.”

This is very true, but a tiny little thing must be added: the German Social-Democratic Party, being a militant and advanced socialist party in the fullest sense of the word, groups around itself many relatively backward elements. But the Russian Cadets, who in the fullest sense of the word are a backward and not a militant, democratic party, have carried with them many advanced and potentially militant democratic elements because the genuinely democratic parties have been forcibly removed from the battlefield. In other words, the German Social-Democratic Party carries with it those who trail behind it; whereas the Russian Cadets themselves trail behind the democratic revolution and can carry with them many advanced people only when most of those who march in front of them are inmates of prisons or are lying in their graves.[4] We say this   in passing lest our Cadets get above themselves on account of this comparison with the German Social-Democrats.

Owing to the elimination of the advanced democratic elements from the scene of this toy-parliament struggle, and so long as they are kept out of it, the Cadets, naturally, have a chance of gaining control of the toy parliament that goes by the name of the Russian State Duma. If we take the above-quoted figures, bear in mind the St. Petersburg and later victories of the Cadets, roughly estimate the enormous predominance of rural electors over urban, and add the peasant electors to the landowner electors, we shall have to admit that, on the whole, it is quite possible, and even probable, that the Duma will be a Cadet Duma.


[1] Among the Lefts we include the Social-Democrats (2), Cadets (304), Party of Democratic Reforms (4), the progressive trend (59), the moderate liberals (17), the Jewish Equality League (3) and the Polish nationalists (7). Among the Right we include the Octobrists (124), Commercial and Industrial Party (51),Constitutional Monarchists (7), Party of Law and Order (5), the Right (49) and monarchists (54).—Lenin

[2] Molva of March 22 wrote: “It is no secret that nobody expects any constructive work from this Duma, and many of those who are voting for the Cadets disagree with their programme; they are merely imposing upon them the sacred and arduous duty of cleaning out the accumulated filth of years from our Augean stables, or in other words, from the government.” —Lenin

[3] The St. Petersburg elections, in which all the 160 electors re turned were Cadets, only serve to bring out more distinctly what has been noted in the elections in many other parts of the country. This is the real significance of the St. Petersburg elections.—Lenin

[4] It is interesting to note the admission of Rus that one of the reasons for the Cadets’ victory was that they allowed the “Left” to attend their meetings. Mr. S. A—ch, in Molva, No. 18 (March 22), writes as follows: “This party [the Cadets] gained quite a deal in the eyes of the voters also from the fact that it allowed representatives of the extreme Left parties to attend its meetings, and victoriously entered into debate with them.” Mr. A—ch may have his opinion about the Cadets’ victories in debate with us. We are quite satisfied with the results of the   contests between the Social-Democrats and the Cadets at the meetings in St. Petersburg in March 1906. Some day impartial people who attend ed those meetings will say who were the victors.—Lenin

[5] Russkiye Vedomosti (Russian Recorder)—a daily paper published in Moscow from 1863 on by liberal professors of Moscow University and Zemstvo leaders. It represented the interests of liberal landlords and bourgeoisie. In 1905 it became a Right Cadet paper. After the October Revolution it was closed along with other counter-revolutionary newspapers.

Lenin borrowed the data on the electors from the item “The Elections”, published in Russkiye Vedomosti, No. 76, on March 19 (April 1), 1906. P· 210

  What Was the Objective Significance of Our Participation in the Duma Elections? | What is the Party of People’s Freedom?  

< backward     Contents     forward >
Works Index   |   Volume 10 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index