V. I.   Lenin

The St. Petersburg Elections and the Hypocrisy of the Thirty-One Mensheviks

Written: Written on January 20 (February 2), 1907
Published: Published as a separate pamphlet in 1907. Signed: N. Lenin. Published according to the text of the pamphlet.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 33-44.
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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The newspaper Tovarishch has today (January 20) published lengthy excerpts from the manifesto of the thirty-one Mensheviks who seceded from the socialist organisation on the eve of the St. Petersburg elections.

First of all, let us briefly recall the actual history of what the Menshevik seceders from the Social-Democrats have done since they walked out of the Conference.

(I) After breaking away from the Social-Democrat workers, they entered into a bloc with the petty bourgeoisie (the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Trudoviks and the Popular Socialists) in order jointly to bargain with the Cadets for seats. The written agreement under which the seceding Social-Democrats joined the petty-bourgeois bloc was concealed from the workers and from the public.

However, we still have hopes that this agreement will eventually be published, and the secret revealed.

(2) As a constituent part of the petty-bourgeois bloc (incorrectly styled the “Left bloc” by the newspapers), the breakaway Mensheviks bargained with the Cadets for three places out of the six for this bloc. The Cadets offered two seats. They could not come to terms. The meeting between the petty-bourgeois “conference” (this expression is not ours—we borrow it from the newspapers) and the Cadets was held on January 18. Both Rech and Tovarishch reported it. Rech announces today that no agreement was reached (although we must, of course, be prepared to hear that negotiations are still being conducted behind the scenes).

So far the Mensheviks have made no announcement in the press concerning their operation for the sale of workers’ votes to the Cadets.

They will probably report to the petty-bourgeois bloc, part of which they formed during the negotiations, and not to the workers’ party!

They probably do not like to say why Comrade Dan took part in the negotiations, although he had been authorised to do so neither by the group of thirty-one nor by any other Party organisation.

Such are the deeds of the thirty-one Mensheviks.

What are their words?

Their first argument is that, having denied that there is a Black-Hundred danger in St. Petersburg, the Bolsheviks had no right to declare in favour of an agreement with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Trudoviks, as that runs counter to the decisions of the All-Russian Conference, which demand independent action on the part of the Social-Democrats in the absence of a Black-Hundred danger.

This argument is false from beginning to end.

The thirty-one breakaway Mensheviks are deceiving the reading public. No Party body has ever laid an official ban on agreements with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Trudoviks in the absence of a Black-Hundred danger. Such an agreement has been concluded in Moscow, for instance, and the Central Committee has not challenged it.

But that is not all. The extent to which the thirty-one Mensheviks are distorting the truth when they invoke the decision of the All-Russian Social-Democratic Conference can be seen from the following. It is common knowledge that the decisions of this (advisory) Conference were carried by the votes of the Mensheviks and the Bundists against those of the Bolsheviks, the Poles and the Letts. And these very Bundists who were instrumental in getting the decision of the All-Russian Social-Democratic Conference passed, have officially sanctioned blocs with the Socialist Revolutionaries, and with revolutionary democrats in general, where there is no Black-Hundred danger, but where there is a Cadet danger. The Central Committee of the Bund has adopted a decision to that effect, and no one has protested against it. It was reported in Nasha Tribuna, the   Russian organ of the Bund, and all Russian Social-Democrats who are able to read know it.

The thirty-one Mensheviks are deceiving the workers and the entire reading public.

We have also explained that the All-Russian Social-Democratic Conference authorised the Central Committee everywhere to exclude non-Social-Democrats from the Social-Democratic election list, i.e., to demand absolutely independent action on the part of the Social-Democrats. So far the Central Committee has nowhere exercised this right, thus, in effect, recognising the autonomy of the Bund and of all other organisations of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.

Further, the thirty-one Mensheviks are displeased because the Conference excluded the Popular Socialists (P.S., or Social Narodniks) from the Trudovik bloc. The thirty-one Mensheviks write: “It is common knowledge that these three parties [the Socialist:Revolutionaries, the Popular Socialists and the Trudoviks; the latter are not a party] formed a tight bloc in St. Petersburg long ago and are acting jointly.”

That is another untruth. First, it has never been officially declared anywhere that such a bloc has been formed and that its terms are really of a nature that would make it a “tight bloc”. There have been only the vaguest newspaper reports, and they cannot be relied upon where important affairs are concerned and official relations between parties exist. Secondly, the fact that the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Committee of the Trudovik Group, who were approached by the Social-Democratic Conference, started negotiations without the Popular Socialists proves that the bloc of the three Trudovik parties and groups was not a particularly “tight” one. A bloc which does not prevent any of its constituent parts from conducting negotiations independently of the other cannot be called a tight bloc. We have so far received no official answer from the Socialist-Revolutionaries with the demand that we consent to an agreement with the Popular Socialists too. Thirdly, Tovarishch publishes, on the same page as the communication of the thirty-one Mensheviks, the “January 16 resolution of the St. Petersburg Committee of the Socialist-   Revolutionary Party”. A note to this resolution reads as follows: “The withdrawal from the agreement that is, the agreement between the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Trudoviks and the Popular Socialists] of the Popular Socialist Group will not dissolve the agreement. The withdrawal of any other socialist group or party, however, will dissolve that agreement.”

Thus, the facts prove that the thirty-one Mensheviks were not speaking the truth when they called the Trudovik bloc a tight bloc.

The Conference of the St. Petersburg Social-Democrats was right in rejecting the Popular Socialists. Firstly, it was right in principle, for there is no doubt that the Popular Socialist Party stands more to the Right, is more unreliable and closer to the Cadets, than any other Trudovik party. Secondly, it was right from the standpoint of practical politics, for it made a correct forecast of that line of division between the Trudovik parties which inevitably revealed itself in the course of the political campaign. It is now clear to all that, had the Trudoviks nevertheless succeeded in foisting the Popular Socialists on us (it would, of course, be ridiculous to fear the inclusion of the Popular Socialists in the Trudovik bloc if that could ensure victory over the Cadets in St. Petersburg), the responsibility for the unreliable Trudoviks would have rested entirely with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and not with the Social-Democrats. The workers’ party took care to let all workers and all citizens know the real difference between the more reliable and the less reliable Trudoviks; it took care that responsibility for the bad Trudoviks should rest with the Socialist-Revolutionaries, not with the party of the proletariat.

What conclusion should be drawn from all this fuss over the Popular Socialists?

The conclusion is that the Mensheviks behaved in an unprincipled manner in joining a petty-bourgeois bloc without any discrimination, and proved incapable of doing what Social-Democrats are in duty bound to do in an election campaign, namely, to teach the masses to draw strict and proper distinctions between parties. The Mensheviks hastened to take their place in a single petty-bourgeois bloc   with the Popular Socialists, in other words, with a semi-Cadet group!

The Bolsheviks were consistent in matters of principle. They started with an open resolution, published everywhere in the name of an official Social-Democratic body, informing all and sundry of the Popular Socialist Party’s unreliability. The Bolsheviks have now achieved the result that the more revolutionary Trudoviks (the Socialist-Revolutionaries) have themselves declared that the Popular Socialists may leave the Trudovik bloc without leading to its dissolution!

The Bolsheviks have achieved the separation of the revolutionary Trudoviks from the opportunist Trudoviks. The Mensheviks are immersed right up to their ears in an opportunist petty-bourgeois bloc.

The Bolsheviks have openly and publicly called upon the Trudoviks to join them in battle against the Cadets, and have already achieved undoubted political results, although they have not as yet entered into any bloc with anybody. Secretly from the workers, and discarding all principles, the Mensheviks have crawled into a petty-bourgeois bloc so as to haggle with the Cadets.

From this the workers can judge whither the Mensheviks are really leading them.

The third and last argument of the thirty-one Mensheviks is that an agreement between the Social-Democrats and the Trudoviks in St. Petersburg would not diminish the Black-Hundred danger, but increase it. This assertion is so absurd, or so hypocritical, that we shall quote the Menshevik argument in full:

“A joint Social-Democratic and Narodnik election list will be popular enough to divert many votes from the Cadets, but not popular enough to achieve victory throughout St. Petersburg, especially if, in the eyes of the average voter, the blame for the non-conclusion of an agreement between all the revolutionary and opposition par ties lies with the Social-Democrats and their allies. In that case, a considerable diversion of votes from the Cadets will benefit the united Black Hundreds, who will defeat both the Cadet and the Left election lists.”

This whole argument is a piece of sheer hypocrisy in tended to screen the bargaining for seats that is going on between the Mensheviks and the Cadets.

Indeed, just think what the Mensheviks are saying: an agreement between the Social-Democrats and the Trudoviks will increase the Black-Hundred danger, for it will divert many votes from the Cadets! Very well, my dear comrades! But when, in your opinion, is the danger of a Black-Hundred victory greatest—when all the non-Black-Hundred votes are split between two election lists or when they are split between three? Let us assume that the Black Hundreds have 1,000 votes and the rest 2,100. When is the danger of a Black-Hundred victory greatest: when these 2,100 votes are split between two lists, or when they are split between three?

The thirty-one Mensheviks can apply to any schoolboy to help them solve this brain-racking problem.

But we shall proceed. The thirty-one Mensheviks are not only talking rank nonsense when they profess not to under stand that if the Social-Democrats and the Trudoviks come to an agreement there will be only two anti-Black-Hundred lists in St. Petersburg, while if there is no such agreement, there may be three. But that is not all.

In addition, the thirty-one Mensheviks are so ignorant of the history of the first elections that they do not know the relative proportion of Black-Hundred and Cadet votes in the St. Petersburg elections to the First Duma. We did not take 1,000 votes for the Black Hundreds and 2,100 for the rest at random. This example was typical of nine out of the twelve districts of St. Petersburg in the First Duma elections!

In these nine districts, which together returned 114 electors out of 160, the lowest Cadet vote was more than twice as high as the highest vote cast for the Black Hundreds, or the so-called Right bloc.

What does this show?

It shows that if there are two “Left” (i.e., non-Black-Hundred) election lists in St. Petersburg, no conceivable division of votes between the Lefts can give the victory to the Black Hundreds.

Since the thirty-one Mensheviks are apparently weak in elementary arithmetic, let us explain it to them: let them try to divide 2,100 into two parts in such a way that 1,000 Black-Hundred votes will defeat both these parts.

Let the Mensheviks rack their brains over this problem, as well as over the problem of whether three lists instead of two will increase or diminish the Black-Hundred danger.

There are no grounds whatever for supposing that the Black Hundreds will be stronger in this year’s St. Petersburg elections than they were in last year’s. No right-minded politician would venture to make such an assertion. It is clear to everybody that the Black Hundreds are completely discredited after the disclosures of the Lidval case, the assassination of Herzenstein,[1] etc. It is common knowledge that news of Left victories in the elections is now coming in from all parts of Russia.

Under such circumstances, the cries about the Black-Hundred danger are the result either of absolute ignorance or of hypocrisy. And it is those who conceal their real aims and act behind the scenes that must play the hypocrite. The Mensheviks are raising an outcry about the Black-Hundred danger in order to divert the workers’ attention from the game they, the Mensheviks, are playing, or did play recently, by joining the petty-bourgeois bloc and bar gaining with the Cadets.

If two Left lists are put up, no split in the votes can give the victory to the Black Hundreds in St. Petersburg, unless the latter obtain a higher vote than they did at the last elections—and everything goes to indicate that their vote will not increase, but will decrease.

Thus, it was by no means for the purpose of combating the Black-Hundred danger that the Mensheviks joined the petty-bourgeois bloc and bargained with the Cadets—this is a childish fable that can deceive only those who are absolutely ignorant or hopelessly stupid.

The Mensheviks bargained with the Cadets to get their man into the Duma, in spite of the workers, with the aid of the Cadets—such is the simple explanation of all these peregrinations from the Social-Democrats to the petty-bourgeois bloc and from the petty-bourgeois bloc to the Cadets.

None but the very naïve can fail to see the purpose behind the Mensheviks’ actions, which they are trying to   conceal by raising an outcry about the Black-Hundred danger.

While they were in the petty-bourgeois bloc, the Mensheviks insisted on three seats in the Duma so as to make sure of one seat for themselves. If the Cadets had conceded only two seats, the Mensheviks might not have obtained even one. The Cadets directly offered one seat to the Narodniks (Popular Socialists), but dared not take the other from the worker curia. And it is not yet certain who will win in the worker curia.

That is why the Mensheviks concealed from the public on what authority Comrade Dan was acting, on what terms they joined the petty-bourgeois bloc, what exactly was discussed at the “conference” of the petty-bourgeois bloc with the Cadets, etc., etc. After such behaviour on the part of the Mensheviks, we still do not and cannot know where they will turn now that the Cadets have rejected them. Will the Popular Socialists combine with the Mensheviks to wheedle two seats out of the Cadets at the expense of the worker curia (an editorial in Rech spoke of the possibility of such a decision); or will the Mensheviks decide on independent Social-Democratic lists, i.e., to have three Left lists in St. Petersburg instead of two? Or will they return to the Social-Democratic Labour Party and to its decision, following their luckless visits to the drawing-rooms of the petty bourgeoisie and the ante-chamber of the Cadets?

If the Mensheviks were really guided by fear of the Black-Hundred danger, and not by a craving to gain a seat in the Duma from the Cadets, could they possibly have broken with the Cadets over the number of the seats?

When a socialist really believes in a Black-Hundred danger and is sincerely combating it—he votes for the liberals without any bargaining, and does not break off negotiations if two seats instead of three are offered him. For instance, it may happen that at a second ballot in Europe a Black-Hundred danger arises when the liberal obtains, say, 8,000 votes, the Black-Hundred representative or reactionary, 10,000, and the socialist 3,000. If a socialist believes that the Black-Hundred danger is a real danger to the working class, he will vote for the liberal. We have no second ballot in Russia, but we may get a situation   analogous to a second ballot in the second stage of the elections. If out of 174 electors, say, 86 are of the Black Hundreds, 84 Cadets and 4 socialists, the socialists must cast their votes for the Cadet candidate, and so far not a single member of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party has questioned this.

The Mensheviks assert that they fear a Black-Hundred danger in St. Petersburg, and yet they break with the Cadets over the question of two seats or three!

This is sheer hypocrisy, calculated to screen how the petty-bourgeois section of the workers’ party is haggling over a miserable seat in the Duma, begged from the Cadets.

Equally hypocritical is the talk the Mensheviks now indulge in about an independent Social-Democratic campaign in St. Petersburg, without the Trudoviks. For example: Tovarishch has published the following report of a speech delivered by Mr. Levitsky, a Menshevik, at a meeting in the Nemetti Theatre on January 19: “The Social-Democrats sacrificed their independence in the election campaign only in order to avert the Black-Hundred danger. Since they have failed in their object, the Social-Democrats must at least attempt to develop broad agitation, and the speaker, therefore, declared in favour of independent action by the Social-Democrats.”

Assuming this Levitsky is sound in mind and judgement, is he not, may we ask, a hypocrite? Since they have failed “to avert the Black-Hundred danger” by putting up one joint list for all the Lefts, including the Cadets, Levitsky wants three Left lists—Cadet, Social-Democratic and Trudovik!

What is this but the floundering of an opportunist who feels that the ground has slipped from under his feet, who thinks he can make us forget that the day before yesterday the Mensheviks were in a petty-bourgeois bloc, and yesterday were bargaining with the Cadets!

The Mensheviks betrayed the workers, went over to the Cadets; and now that their shady deal has failed, they want to clear themselves by merely talking about independent Social-Democratic action! But this is just empty talk, mere eyewash; even if there were three Left lists in St. Petersburg, the Black Hundreds could win only in the event   of the Left vote being split; and the Mensheviks themselves have strengthened the position of the petty-bourgeois bloc by renouncing the proletarian party and entering the bloc to bargain with the Cadets together with that bloc.

Indeed, the Mensheviks have plenty to “clear themselves” of now—such is the discredit they have brought upon themselves by their entire conduct in the St. Petersburg election campaign. Indeed, the only thing the Mensheviks can now do is to indulge in empty and sonorous phrases, for they themselves do not seriously believe that a purely Social-Democratic list can be put up in St. Petersburg at the present time.

And we most emphatically warn the Bolsheviks not to trust these sonorous and hypocritical phrases.

The Bolsheviks have nothing to “clear themselves” of, nothing to repent of. Our political line, which at first was ridiculed by all the bourgeois press in the capital, is now being magnificently and strikingly justified by the entire course of events. The absurdity of the Black-Hundred danger tale is becoming clear. The Cadet danger is becoming obvious. The policy of the Cadets, whose lender is being (or has been?) received in audience by Stolypin, is now being exposed.

The Bolsheviks did not enter a petty-bourgeois bloc behind the back of the workers’ party. They did not strength en that bloc by sanctioning the participation of the semi-Cadet Popular Socialist Party along with the Trudoviks. The Bolsheviks have not taken a single step or uttered a single word that the petty-bourgeois parties can interpret as a renunciation of independent action by the Social-Democrats.

While Milyukov was grovelling at Stolypin’s feet and Mensheviks and Trudoviks of all shades were grovelling at Milyukov’s feet—the Bolsheviks alone stood firm, never for a moment ceasing to do what Levitsky and his like have now remembered to do because they have quarrelled with the Cadets.

Therefore, we must not under any circumstances do the stupid thing which the dismayed and hypocritical Mensheviks are prattling about; we must not reject a revolutionary   bloc and petty-bourgeois support for the socialists against the Cadets.

It was because the Bolsheviks took the right course at once, without hesitation, that the instability of the Trudoviks and the firmness of the workers’ party (except for its opportunist appendage, of course) has now become clear to all. It has become really clear that the Social-Democratic proletariat is going its own independent way, directing all the other elements against the Black Hundreds and against the liberals, freeing all the petty-bourgeois parties and trends from the influence of Cadet ideology and Cadet policy, and publicly assessing the degree of reliability and suitability of the revolutionary and the opportunist groups among the Trudoviks.

And to be afraid to lead all the Trudoviks now, when they have tasted the bitterness of Cadet benevolence and are prepared to fight the Cadets, would be unpardonable childishness and a manifestation of political spinelessness.

The thirty-one Mensheviks who have entangled them selves in the bargaining with the Cadets are now compelled to admit, in spite of themselves, that “a joint Social-Democratic and Trudovik list will be popular enough to divert many votes from the Cadets...”. Yes, that is exactly how it is! And that is exactly why we cannot neglect the task of undermining the hegemony of the Cadets in the capital, to wards which the eyes of all Russia are turned.

If we capture half the Cadet vote in several districts plus one extra vote, we shall win, for we shall have all the advantage of the split between the Black-Hundred bourgeoisie and the liberal conciliatory bourgeoisie (there is no danger in this, for in nine districts the Cadets have more than twice as many votes as the Black Hundreds).

It is becoming clearer every day that the Mensheviks took the wrong political course when they raised an outcry about the Black-Hundred danger. It is becoming clear that the delegates and electors stand more to the Left this year than they did last year. Instead of acting as the ludicrous and shameful accomplices of the liberal landlords (which cannot be justified by the plea of a Black-Hundred danger, for none exists), a useful and responsible role awaits us; to exercise the hegemony of the proletariat over the democratic   petty bourgeoisie in the struggle to prevent subordination of the unenlightened masses to the leadership of the liberals.

The first elections to the Duma resulted in a Cadet victory, and these liberal bourgeois are exerting every effort to consolidate and perpetuate a hegemony that rests on the stultification of the masses, on their failure to think independently and to pursue an independent policy.

It is our bounden duty to bend every effort to rally around ourselves, particularly in St. Petersburg, all those who are capable of fighting the Black Hundreds and the Cadets—to rally them for the aims of the people’s revolution, for independent action by the vast masses of the people.

And we shall do this without sacrificing an iota of the ideological independence of our Social-Democratic agitation, without retreating in the least from our socialist aims but giving them full expression, and without for a moment ceasing to expose the vacillation and treachery of the petty bourgeoisie.

The revolutionary Social-Democrats alone stand firmly and resolutely on the positions of the struggle for freedom and the struggle for socialism.


[1] Lidval case—E. Lidval was a large-scale speculator who supplied food for the famine-stricken gubernias in 1906; he was Deputy to V. I. Gurko, Minister of the Interior. The exposure of his embezzlement of government funds and speculation on the famine forced the tsarist government to indict him. The guilty, however, were not punished.

The assassination of Herzenstein, a Cadet deputy to the First State Duma, was the work of the Black Hundreds; it occurred in Finland on July 18(31), 1906. p. 39

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