V. I.   Lenin

The Imminent Dissolution of the Duma and Questions of Tactics

Written: February 27, 1907
Published: Proletary, No. 14, March 4, 1907. Published according to the Proletary text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 184-188.
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 27, 1907.

The papers are full of news, rumours and surmises about the imminent dissolution of the Duma.

Is it probable? If we examine the objective state of affairs, we shall have to form the conclusion that it is more than probable. The convocation of the Duma was, for the government, a necessity born of compulsion. They had to make one more attempt, accompanied by the greatest possible repressive measures, to convene a popular representative body in order to come to terms with the bourgeoisie. The experiment is an obvious failure. Military courts and all the other niceties of the Stolypin constitution have rendered extraordinary aid to revolutionary agitation among masses until now unaffected, and have produced a Left Duma from out of the depths of the peasant masses. The Cadets, the Centre party of the Russian revolution, have lost ground as compared with the First Duma. The Cadets have undoubtedly swung to the Right, but with such a Duma at such a time the government are completely unable to come to terms with them. The Cadets could merge with the Octobrists, and they are moving steadily in that direction: suffice it to name Mr. Struve and Mr. Golovin. But the specific feature of the present situation is precisely this—there is no Cadet-Octobrist majority in the Duma. The entire “Centre” has been hopelessly crushed by the sharpened struggle of the extremes: the monarchist Right, and the Left wing of the Duma. This latter part constitutes two-fifths of the deputies. Its role in the Duma   is tremendous. Its prestige among the masses of the people is very high. Its growing ties with those masses cannot be sundered by any half-measures. Necessity dictates that the government dissolve the Duma: they are unable to extricate themselves from the situation now obtaining, without resorting to force. The “legality” of this situation only deepens the crisis, since its true power among the masses of the people must be greater than that expressed “legally”, i.e., that which has been passed through dozens and hundreds of police screens.

The dissolution of the Duma is more than likely: it is inevitable because what we are experiencing is actually a revolutionary, not merely a constitutional crisis. And it is specifically because of this that it would be dangerous, ridiculous and pitiful politics to hide one’s head under one’s wing and attempt to make excuses for the inevitable consequences of the present political situation or to attempt, by means of words and phrases, to obscure the clear, weak en the acute, and conceal the obvious.

The Cadets are pursuing a policy of this kind. Mr. Izgoyev, writing in today’s Rech, says: “It is almost beyond our power to save the Duma.” This is almost correct. “In three or four months’ time, when the Duma will have acquired prestige in the country by its legislative activities, the situation might be different.” This is not only correct but obvious. And the government, too, can see the obvious.

But Mr. Izgoyev is afraid of unvarnished truth and be gins to twist and turn: “But will it be granted these three or four months? It is .a vicious circle from which there is no way out. The way out is not in the street, organised’ or ’unorganised’; there would be a way out if people in spired by real patriotism were in power...”.

Naturally! They have hypnotised themselves with their own empty verbosity, have driven themselves into a blind alley of honeyed phrases, and now they are ’weeping, wailing and sorrowing.... This is truly an example of a perplexed, tearful and impotent philistine!

Let the reader not imagine that Izgoyev’s speeches are the chance mouthings of a casual Cadet writer. Oh, no. They are a summary of the policy officially laid down by the Constitutional-Democratic Party, the leading party,   which has got its man elected chairman. In that same Rech we read: “After lengthy debates at the evening meeting on February 25 of the people’s freedom parliamentary group on the attitude to be adopted towards the government’s declaration, it was decided to maintain silence, expressing neither confidence nor distrust, and to go over to the examination of current problems. Should the Right parties introduce, for provocative purposes, a formulation expressing confidence in the ministry, it was decided to vote against it. In the event of the extreme Left (the Social-Democrats) proposing a vote of no confidence, the people’s freedom party decided to table its own proposal to procede with current business. There is, incidentally, a hope that a preliminary agreement by the entire opposition will be achieved on this question, to which the Socialist-Revolutionaries, Popular Socialists and Trudoviks are already inclined to consent.” Let us add that our Social-Democratic group in the Duma has, according to Russkaya Zhizn, decided to “act fully independently”, a decision that meets with our warm approval.

Honestly, the Cadet policy is something inimitable. It would he incautious to vote “no confidence”. The Duma must be saved. But to say “we do not express confidence — that is permissible. What is this but a political “man in a muffler”? Are these not philistines who, faced by the approach of an inevitable storm, cover their eyes with their nightcaps and reiterate: “We are cautious ... we are saving...”. You are saving your philistine nightcap, and nothing more, esteemed knights of the “people’s freedom”!

And what could be more ridiculous than calling the resolution of the Rights expressing confidence in the ministry “a provocation”? It is the legitimate right of every member of the Duma, the natural answer of a people’s representative to the ministry’s question, “This is our programme. Does the Duma wish to work with us in this spirit?” The writing of this nonsense can only be explained as complete confusion among the Cadets. No, gentlemen, a nightcap cannot protect you against counter-revolution. The right to dissolve the Duma is a super-“legal” right according to that constitution which the pitiful liberals so foolishly praised and so treacherously persuaded the people to take   seriously. We cannot get away from the fact that the ministry will ask the Duma whether it wishes to carry out some programme or another. And the answer: “We do not express confidence”, will still be a superb and quite sufficiently “constitutional” excuse to dissolve the Duma; even with out the help of the Kovalevskys, dozens of “constitutional precedents” can be found for the dissolution of parliament for refusing the government much less important things than ... than ... than military courts and punitive expeditions.

What conclusion is to be drawn from this? The conclusion is that it is foolish to play at constitutions when there aren’t any. It is foolish to close one’s eyes and remain silent about the fact that the days of even the present Russian “near-constitution” are numbered, that the annulment of the franchise and the return to complete absolutism are inevitable.

What is to be done? Aussprechen was ist—to admit the truth. The government are undoubtedly compelled to dissolve the Duma. It is to the government’s advantage that the Duma should disband itself in silence, should obediently play the constitutional comedy and not open the eyes of the people to the inevitability of a coup d’état. And the cowardly Cadets, with their superb, inimitable “historical” formula: “maintain silence”, the Cadets who, instead of “a vote of no confidence” say “we do not express confidence”, are only helping the government effect a silent coup d’6tat.

Real champions of liberty, real representatives of the people, should act differently. They should realise that the continued existence of the Duma does not at all depend on politeness, caution, care, diplomacy, tact, taciturnity or other Molchalin-like virtues.[1] They should tell the people, simply and clearly, from the rostrum of the Duma, the whole truth, including the reason why the dissolution of the Duma, a coup d’état, and a return to pure absolutism are inevitable. The government need silence on this. The people need to know it. The representatives of the people— while they still are representatives of the people!—should say this from the rostrum of the Duma.

The position is quite clear. There is no other way: either infamous silence, obediently offering the neck, or a calm   but firm statement to the people that the first act of the Black Hundreds’ coup d’état is being carried out.

Only the struggle of the people can prevent that. And the people must know the whole truth.

We hope that the Social-Democrats in the Duma will tell them that truth.


[1] Molchalin-like virtues—sycophancy and toadyism. Molchalin is a character from Griboyedov’s comedy Wit Works Woe.

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