V. I.   Lenin

The Social-Democratic Group and April 3 in the Duma

Written: Written on April 4 (17), 1907
Published: Published on April 5, 1907, in Nashe Ekho, No. 10. Published according to the newspaper text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 345-348.
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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We have to return once again to the incident that was enacted in the State Duma in connection with question asked regarding the killings and tortures in Riga Prison and with the arraignment of seventy-four people before a military court. This has to be done, we say, because, amongst other things, Narodnaya Duma has for some reason or other seen fit to obscure the real meaning of the events and thereby to aggravate that extremely unfavourable impression created by the conduct of the Social-Democratic group in the Duma on this question.

It is true that Narodnaya Duma also speaks of this first question day in the Duma by saying that the first attempt was a failure; it is true that Narodnaya Duma points out, apropos of this, that “the Duma groups are still poorly adapted to parliamentary procedure”, but that is not what matters. It is our opinion that the Social-Democratic group has revealed, not parliamentary but purely political inexperience in this matter. It is no misfortune that the Social-Democratic group sometimes gets caught in some “formal trap” (Narodnaya Duma’s words) or another; the misfortune is that it sometimes quite unnecessarily surrenders its positions and does not carry a well-commenced struggle to the end, does not consolidate victory behind it when there is every possibility of so doing.

Such was the case when a reply was made to the government declaration, and the Social-Democratic group, for no reason at all, surrendered a good half of its victory ... to Mr. Stolypin; this is what happened on April 3, in connection with the question asked about the Riga horrors.

The Cadets are against questions that have to be answered without notice.[2] That is only natural; an urgent question, especially one on such a matter as that of the government using military courts in their war against the people, always contains elements of a “demonstrative act”, of pressure brought to bear on the ministers. An urgent question on such a matter is undoubtedly one of those “facts”, one of those “acts” on the part of the Duma that do not come under the heading of “lunch in the afternoon” or “theatre in the evening”, to which the servile Rech is so anxious to liken the Duma itself. Is it possible that this poison, produced by Cadet decomposition, can affect the Left in the Duma, including even the Social-Democratic group? We are unwilling to admit this, yet....

“No urgent question is needed,” Mr. Rodichev whines servilely from the rostrum. “An urgent question in the present instance might wound the ministers’ pride.”

We are not in the least surprised at such speeches on the lips of a Cadet Mirabeau, who so painstakingly plays his role of representative of the tas de blagueurs[1] in the Duma.

Deputy Djaparidze (Social-Democrat) gave a splendid answer to Rodichev. “It is our duty,” he reminded the Cadet flunkeys, “to say our word when the hand of the executioner is raised over his victim.”

Then Kuzmin-Karavayev took the floor and read a telegram he had received from the local satrap in Riga, Meller-Zakomelsky—that same Meller-Zakomelsky whose name Siberian mothers still use to scare their children with. The telegram was most insolent, and full of crude jibes: "... in Riga there has been no reason to arraign either 74, or 70 or even 4 people; so far there is nobody to save”.

Deputy Alexinsky opposed to this telegram another, received from progressive Riga electors, which said that the arraignment before a military court was being arranged.

Deputy Alexinsky, who insisted with good reason on the urgency of the question, was followed by the Trudovik and the Socialist-Revolutionary groups, which supported the demand of urgency.

Then the Cadets began to withdraw. Pergament did not even put forward an argument, but requested the Duma Left not to insist on urgency, offering on behalf of the Questions Commission to put this question through the commission within twenty-four hours. Only, he begged, don’t insist on a reply from the floor.

Bulgakov, the unctuous mystic, then spoke and, to achieve the same rejection of urgency, asked that no party passion be brought into the question. Mr. Bulgakov would have done well first to explain to his party colleagues that in such matters servility is permissible to an even lesser degree than in others, and will naturally arouse party passions to the paroxysms nobody desires.

After Bulgakov came Kiesewetter, bringing another step towards the Left, another minor concession. Kiesewetter proposed passing the question on to the commission so that it could be handled “out of turn”.

Delarov of the Popular Socialists spoke in favour of urgency.

In other words, the entire Left was against the Cadets with a unanimity rare in the Duma. It became clearer that the issue would be a political one, and that the struggle begun against Cadet servility would have to be carried through to its conclusion. Read A. Stolypin’s “Notes” in Novoye Vremya for April 4. How he showers praises on the Cadet Party! How he attacks his allies, the “Rights”, to make them realise, at long last, that in such cases they must not speak so sharply, or scare the Cadets from the path of conciliation they are now following! “Sincerity and seriousness”, be pleased to note, were heard by Mr. Stolypin “in the speeches of the Cadets” on that day!

And then, when the Social-Democratic group already had victory within its grasp, Tsereteli got up and said that the group withdrew its motion of urgency. Why? What were the motives? There was absolutely no reason to suppose that a question passed on to a commission would be more effective than a question answered from the floor. And, of course, nobody will risk saying that it would.

Tsereteli had no grounds whatsoever for his statement. It amounts to lambasting oneself in the fullest sense of the word. The day of April 3 does not stand to the credit of the   Social-Democratic group. And, we repeat, this is not a case of parliamentary inexperience. It is a case of that political flaccidity, that indecisiveness of the Social-Democratic group, which has made itself felt on several previous occasions, and has prevented the group from becoming the real leader of the entire Duma Left. We must not close our eyes to this, but must strive to get rid of it!


[1] Gang of chatterboxes.—Lenin

[2] Urgent question. In Russian Duma procedure questions were not usually put directly to a minister or submitted for debate without having first been examined by a commission. The Duma itself, however, could decide that a question was “urgent” and should be the subject of an immediate debate. As the reader can see from this article, the debate on whether a question was sufficiently urgent for a debate could obstruct any real discussion of it and ensure its relegation to a commission. From this it follows that no question raised by a small minority in the Duma could ever be voted “urgent” and discussion on it permitted.

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