V. I.   Lenin

The Opening of the Second State Duma[1]

Written: February 20, 1907.
Published: Novy Luch, No. 1, February 20, 1907. Published according to the text in Novy Luch.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 152-155.
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 20, 1907.

The Second Duma meets today. The conditions it has been convened in, the conditions, internal and external, during the elections, and the conditions it will function in—all these are different from what they were for the First Duma. Obviously, it would be a mistake to expect a simple repetition of events. On the other hand, however, one essential feature is descernible in all the changes that have taken place in the past year of constant political ups and downs, namely that, on the whole, the movement has risen to a higher plane, that for all its zigzag path it is persistently pressing ahead.

In brief, this essential feature may be described as follows: a shift to the Right at the top, a shift to the Left at the bottom, and an accentuation of the political extremes— and not only political, but also and above all social and economic extremes. It is particularly characteristic of the events immediately preceding the opening of the Second Duma that the seemingly unruffled surface of political life has concealed a quiet, inconspicuous, but deep-going process in the growth of understanding among the masses, both in the working class and among the broadest sections of the peasantry.

Though there has been little change in the constitution bolsted by military courts in the past year, the political migration of the classes has been tremendous. Take the Black Hundreds. At first they consisted mainly of a gang of scoundrels in police service, with a small following recruited from the most ignorant and deluded sections of the common people, often deliberately befuddled with drink. Today the reactionary parties are headed by the Council of the United Nobility. The feudal-minded landlords have   closed their ranks and have become thoroughly “aware of themselves” in the course of the revolution. The reactionary parties are becoming the class organisation of those who will defend to the death the blessings most threatened by the present revolution: the huge landed estates—that feudal survival—the privileges of the highest estate, the opportunities they have to influence affairs of state through personal connections with the camarilla, etc.

Take the Cadets. Of the frankly and patently bourgeois parties this party was considered unquestionably the most “progressive”. How far to the Right it has shifted! There is no longer any of last year’s vacillation between reaction and the struggle of the people. This has yielded to frank hatred for this struggle, a cynically outspoken ambition to put a stop to the revolution, to settle down quietly, come to terms with reaction and begin to build the cosy little nest—cosy for the landlord of capitalist inclinations and for the manufacturer—of a monarchist constitution, a narrow, mercenary, class constitution, one of ruthless severity towards the masses of the people.

It is now no longer possible to repeat the error so many people used to slip into when they said that the Cadets stand to the Left of the Centre—that the line of demarcation between the parties of freedom and the parties of reaction lies to the Right of the Cadets. The Cadets are the Centre, and this Centre is ever more openly working for a deal with the Right. As a result of the political re alignment of classes, the Cadets now find their support in the landlord whose estate is being run along capitalist lines, and in the broad section of the bourgeoisie. The democratic, petty-bourgeois sections of the population, however, are patently drawing away from the Cadets, following them only by force of habit, from tradition, and at times simply because they have been deceived.

In the countryside the main battle of the present revolution—the fight against feudal survivals and landed proprietorship—is even fiercer and more clear-cut. The Cadets’ non-democratic nature reveals itself much more glaringly to the peasant than to the urban petty bourgeois. And the peasant has turned his back on the Cadet with even greater finality. It was the peasant electors, I would say,   more than any others, who ousted the Cadets from the gubernia electoral assemblies.

The antagonism between peasant and landlord—the most deep-rooted and most typical form of the antagonism between the people’s freedom and feudal survivals in the bourgeois revolution—is not in the forefront in the towns. The urban proletarian has already come to realise another and much more profound conflict of interests, and this has given rise to a socialist movement. Taken as a whole, the worker curias all over Russia, have returned almost exclusively Social-Democratic electors, with only a scattering of Socialist-Revolutionaries and an altogether negligible number of electors from other parties. But even among the urban petty-bourgeois democrats the shift of the lower stratum to the Left, away from the Cadets, is unmistakable. According to figures published in Rech by a Cadet statistician, Mr. Smirnov, in 22 cities, with 153,000 voters voting on four election lists, the monarchists received 17,000 votes, the Octobrists 34,000, the Left bloc 41,000, and the Cadets 74,000. So enormous was the number of votes wrested from the Cadets in the very first election contest— despite the tremendous power of the Cadet daily press, the legal status of the Cadet organisation, the Cadet falsehood about the danger of a Black-Hundred victory and despite the illegal status of the Lefts—that there can be no doubt about the turn taken by the shop-assistants, petty clerks, petty civil servants and poorer householders. The Cadets will not be able to stand up to another such battle. Urban democracy has abandoned them for the Trudoviks and the Social-Democrats.

The whole of the proletariat has mobilised, and the great mass of the democratic petty bourgeoisie, especially the peasantry, are mobilising against the Black-Hundred Council of the United Nobility and against the liberal bourgeoisie, who have funked completely and turned tail on the revolution.

The political realignment of classes is so profound. so far-reaching, and so mighty that no military courts, no Senate interpretations, no tricks of the reactionaries, no spate of Cadet falsehood monopolising the columns of the entire daily press—in fact, nothing at all has been able   to prevent this realignment from being reflected in the Duma. The Second Duma demonstrates the intensification of the profound, conscious, and increasingly organised mass struggle between the various classes.

The task of the moment is to understand this basic fact, and to be able to connect the various sections of the Duma with this mighty support from below. It is not to the top, not to the government, that we must look, but to the depths, to the people. It is not to the petty technical details of Duma procedure that we must devote our attention; it is not vulgar considerations of how best to lie low, of how to keep quiet in order to prevent the Duma from being dissolved, in order not to anger Stolypin and Co.—it is not these vulgar Cadet considerations that must interest the democrat. All his attention, all the strength of his spirit, must be directed towards strengthening the transmission belt which connects the big wheel that has begun to revolve energetically down below with the little wheel up above.

Now, more than ever before, it is the duty of the Social-Democratic Party, as the party of the most advanced class, to rise boldly to full stature, to speak out independently, resolutely and courageously. If it is to further the socialist and purely class alms of the proletariat, this Party must show it is the vanguard of the entire democratic movement. True, we must dissociate ourselves from all petty-bourgeois groups and strata—but not for the purpose of secluding ourselves in supposedly splendid isolation (which would really mean assisting the liberal bourgeois, trailing along in their wake), but for the purpose of ridding ourselves of all vacillation, of all half-heartedness, for the purpose of becoming the leader of the democratic peasantry.

The primary task of the Social-Democrats entering the Second Duma is to wrest away from the liberals those democratic elements that are still under their sway; to become the leader of those democrats; to teach them to seek support in the people and join ranks, with the masses down below; to unfurl our own banner before the whole of the working class and before the entire impoverished and famine-stricken peasant masses.


[1] “The Opening of the Second State Duma” was published on February 20, 1907, as the leading article in the first issue of Novy Luch.

Novy Luch (New Ray)—a Bolshevik daily political and literary newspaper published legally in St. Petersburg from February 20 to   February 27 (March 3-12), 1907, under Lenin’s editorship. The newspaper dealt with the political life of the country and the working-class movement; it sharply criticised the opportunist policy of the Mensheviks, exposed the counter-revolutionary character of the liberal bourgeoisie and the indecisiveness and wavering of the petty-bourgeois parties. Almost all issues of Novy Luch contained articles by Lenin. The Bolshevik draft resolutions for the Fifth Congress of the Party were published in Nos. 6 and 7 of Navy Luch on February 23 and 27, 1907.

After the appearance. of No. 7, the newspaper was suppressed by the tsarist government and legal action taken against its publishers.

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