V. I.   Lenin

The Second Duma and the Second Revolutionary Wave

Written: February 7, 1907
Published: Proletary, No. 13, February 11, 1907. Published according to the Proletary text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 113-118.
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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St. Petersburg, February 7, 1907.

Events are moving at a pace which can only be called revolutionary. Four days ago, in discussing the election campaign in St. Petersburg, we wrote that the political alignment was already clear: revolutionary Social-Democracy alone had independently, resolutely, and proudly unfurled the banner of relentless struggle against the violence of reaction and the hypocrisy of the liberals. The petty-bourgeois democrats (including the petty-bourgeois section of the workers’ party) were wavering, turning now to the liberals, now to the revolutionary Social-Democrats.

In St. Petersburg the elections to the Duma take place today. Their results cannot affect the alignment of social forces we have already indicated. And yesterday’s elections, which have accounted for 217 of the 524 members, i.e., more than two-fifths, are a clear indication of the political composition of the Second Duma, a clear indication of the political situation which is developing before our eyes.

According to Rech, which, of course, is inclined to paint a picture favourable to the Cadets, the 205 members already elected to the Duma are distributed as follows: Rights, 37; National-Autonomists,[2] 24; Cadets, 48; Progressists and non-party, 16; non-party Lefts, 40; Narodniks, 20 (13 Trudoviks, 6 Socialist-Revolutionaries, and 1 Popular Socialist); and 20 Social-Democrats.

We have before us a Duma that is undoubtedly more Left than the previous one. If the rest of the elections yield similar results we shall have the following round figures   for 500 members of the Duma: Rights, 90; Nationalists, 50; Cadets, 125; Progressists, 35; non-party Lefts, 100; Narodniks, 50; Social-Democrats, 50. It goes without saying that this is only an approximate estimate made for the sake of illustration, but there can hardly be any doubt of the correctness of these totals.

The Rights constitute one-fifth; the moderate liberals (the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie, including the Nationalists, Cadets, and some, if not all, Progressists)—two fifths; the Lefts—two-fifths (non-party, one-fifth, and Narodniks and Social-Democrats sharing equally the other fifth)—such is the make-up of the Second Duma as it appears to us on the basis of the preliminary returns.

What does this mean?

The most savage and shameless tyranny of the Black-Hundred government, which is the most reactionary in Europe. The most reactionary election law in all Europe. The most revolutionary popular representative body in Europe in the most backward country!

This glaring contradiction clearly reveals the fundamental contradiction in the whole of contemporary Russian life, reveals to the full the revolutionary character of the present day.

Two revolutionary years have elapsed since the great day of January 9, 1905. We have experienced long and painful periods of savage reaction. We have experienced brief “bright intervals” of liberty. We have experienced two great popular outbreaks of strikes and armed struggle. We have experienced one Duma and two general elections, which definitely determined the alignment of parties and caused an extremely sharp alignment among the population, which until recently had no conception of political parties whatsoever.

During these two years, we have grown out of our faith— naïve in some and crudely selfish in others—in the unity of the liberation movement, and have cast off many illusions of peaceful constitutional methods; we have gained experience in mass forms of struggle and have reached a point where we must employ the most stern and extreme method of struggle conceivable—that of the armed struggle of one part of the population against the other. The bourgeoisie   and the landlords, have become fierce and brutal. The man in the street is weary. The Russian intellectual is limp and despondent. The party of liberal windbags and liberal traitors, the Cadets, has raised its head, hoping to make capital out of the prevailing weariness born of the revolution, and claiming as its hegemony what is really its readiness, like Famusov,[3] to go to the utmost limits of obsequiousness.

But below, deep down among the proletarian masses and among the mass of the destitute, starving peasantry, the revolution has made headway, quietly and imperceptibly undermining the foundations, rousing the most somnolent with the thunder of civil war, galvanising the most lethargic with the rapid changes from “liberties” to bestial tyranny, from calm to parliamentary excitement, elections, mass meetings, and feverish “union” activity.

As a result we have a new, even more Left Duma, and in prospect we have a new, even more formidable and more unmistakable revolutionary crisis.

Even the blind must now see that it is a revolutionary and not a constitutional crisis that lies ahead of us. There can be no doubt about that. The days of the Russian constitution are numbered. A new clash is inexorably approaching either the revolutionary people will be victorious, or the Second Duma will disappear as ingloriously as the First, followed by the repeal of the election law and a return to the Black-Hundred absolutism sans phrases.

How petty our recent “theoretical” controversies have suddenly become in the glaring light of the rising sun of revolution! Are not the plaints of the miserable, frightened and faint-hearted intellectuals about the Black-Hundred danger in the elections ridiculous? Have not events brilliantly confirmed what we said in November (Proletary No. 8): “By their outcry against the Black-Hundred danger, the Cadets are leading the Mensheviks by the nose in order to avert the danger from the Left”?[1]

Revolution is a good teacher. It forces back on to the revolutionary track those who are continually going astray either from weakness of character or weakness of intellect.   The Mensheviks wanted blocs with the Cadets, unity in the “opposition”, the opportunity to “utilise the Duma as a whole”. They did everything possible (and impossible too, to the extent of splitting the Party, as was the case in St. Petersburg) to create an all-liberal Duma.

Nothing came of it. The revolution is stronger than opportunists of little faith think. Under the hegemony of the Cadets, the revolution can only lie prone in the dust—it can triumph only under the hegemony of the Bolshevik Social-Democrats.

The Duma is turning out to be exactly as we depicted it in our polemic with the Mensheviks in Proletary, No. 8 (November 1906). It is a Duma of sharp extremes, a Duma in which the moderate and cautious mean has been swept away by the revolutionary torrent, a Duma of Krushevans[4] and of the revolutionary people. The Bolshevik Social-Democrats will raise their banner in this Duma and say to the masses of the petty-bourgeois democrats what they said to them during the St. Petersburg elections: make your choice between Cadet haggling with the Stolypins, and joint struggle in the ranks of the people! We, the proletariat of all Russia, are marching to that struggle. All who want freedom for the people, and land for the peasants, follow us!

The Cadets already feel that the wind has changed, that the political barometer is falling rapidly. It is not surprising that the Milyukovs have lost their nerve and, casting off all shame, have started howling—in the street—about “red rags” (in the sanctums of the Stolypins these creatures have always secretly abused the “red rag”). It is not surprising that today’s Rech (February 7) refers to the “jumps” in the political barometer, to the government’s vacillation “between the resignation of the Cabinet and some kind of pronunciamento, action by the Black Hundreds and the military, the very date of which has been fixed for the 14th”. And the desolated soul of the Russian liberal Wails and sighs: What, again a “policy of spontaneous reflexes...”.

Yes, miserable heroes of miserably stagnant times! Revolution again! We gladly welcome the approaching wave of the people’s spontaneous wrath. But we shall do all in   our power to make this new struggle as little spontaneous and as conscious, consistent, and steadfast as possible.

The government set all the wheels of its machine in motion long ago: violence, pogroms, barbarous atrocities, deception and stultification. And now all these wheels have come loose; everything has been tried, even the shelling of villages and towns. The popular forces are not exhausted; on the contrary, they are now forming more and more widely, powerfully, openly and boldly. A Black-Hundred autocracy and—a Left Duma. The situation is undoubtedly a revolutionary one, and a struggle in the most acute form is undoubtedly inevitable.

But it is precisely because of its inevitability that we must not force the pace, spur or goad it on. Leave that to the Krushevans and Stolypins. Our task is to reveal the truth to the proletariat and the peasantry clearly, directly and with unsparing candour, to open their eyes to the significance of the coming storm, to help them to meet the enemy in organised fashion, with the calmness of men marching to death, like soldiers in the trenches facing the foe, and ready at the first shots to dash into the attack.

“Shoot first, Messrs. Bourgeois!” said Engels to the German capitalists in 1894.[5] And we say: “Shoot first, Krushevans and Stolypins, Orlovs and Romanovs!” Our task is to help the working class and the peasantry to crush the Black-Hundred autocracy when it hurls itself upon us of its own accord.

Therefore—no premature calls for an insurrection! No solemn manifestos to the people. No pronunciamentos, no “proclamations”. The storm is bearing down on us of its own accord. There is no need of sabre-rattling.

We must get our weapons ready—in the literal and in the figurative sense. First of all, and above all, we must train a solid army of the proletariat, conscious of its purpose and strong in resolve. We must increase tenfold our work of agitation and organisation among the peasants— among those who are starving in the villages and among those who last autumn sent their sons to serve in the army, sons who experienced the great year of revolution. We must tear down all the ideological blinds and screens concealing the revolution, put an end to all doubts and vacillation.   We must say simply and calmly, in the plainest and most popular form, as loudly and distinctly as possible: a struggle is inevitable. The proletariat will accept battle. The proletariat will sacrifice everything, will throw all its forces into the fight for freedom. Let the ruined peasantry, let the soldiers and sailors know that the fate of Russian freedom is about to be decided.


[1] See present edition, Vol. 11, p. 314.—Ed.

[2] National-Autonomists—the name given by Lenin to the Polish deputies in the Second State Duma.

[3] Famusov—a character in A. S. Griboyedov’s comedy Wit Works Woe.

[4] P. A. Krushevan—one of the leaders of the Black-Hundred Union of the Russian People.

[5] Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, pp. 136-37.

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