V. I.   Lenin

The St. Petersburg Elections and the Crisis of Opportunism

Published: Proletary, No. 12 January 25, 1907. Published according to the Proletary text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 57-61.
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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On January 6 a St. Petersburg general conference was held. The conference was to decide whether or not there were to be agreements in the capital with the Cadets.

Notwithstanding Plekhanov’s appeals to “worker comrades”, published in Tovarishch; notwithstanding Madame E. Kuskova’s hysterical articles; notwithstanding Plekhanov’s threat to list the workers among the “enemies of freedom” if they insist on maintaining an independent Social-Democratic position, and notwithstanding the Cadets’ more or less alluring promises, the organised and class-conscious proletariat of St. Petersburg proved so politically mature that, after the discussions and the voting, the majority declared against agreements of any kind with the Cadets. It was clear that the conference, elected by organised workers after discussions and voting in accordance with platforms,[1] would declare itself to the same effect.

Space prevents us from dealing in Proletary with the proceedings of the conference in detail; besides, consider able literature has been published on this subject. It is important to note here, however, that our opportunists have gone so far in their policy of bourgeois compromise that they cannot accept the conference’s decision. It was obvious from the very outset of the conference that, sup ported by the Central Committee, the St. Petersburg Mensheviks would not submit to the conference decision. The   friends of the Cadets were only seeking for a pretext to break with revolutionary Social-Democracy. A pretext had to be found, no matter what kind it would be. As the question of the credentials failed to provide this pretext, the Mensheviks took advantage of the recommendation of the Central Committee that questions of election tactics be decided by the electoral units directly concerned, and walked out of the conference on the issue of dividing the conference into two parts, one especially for the city and one for the suburbs. They wanted to substitute the territorial administrative units of the police for Party organisational units. If the Mensheviks’ advice had been taken, we should not only have had to keep the suburban districts out of the conference, but we should also have had to split up hitherto integral districts, such as the Neva, Moscow and Narva districts, and reorganise the Party to suit the authorities, not the Party.

It was also obvious that, whichever way the question of dividing the conference was decided, the majority would declare against agreements with the Cadets. The Mensheviks walked out and, to the delight of the entire bourgeois press, decided to conduct an independent campaign in St. Petersburg, wage a struggle against their own Party comrades, split the St. Petersburg proletariat for the sake of an agreement with the bourgeois and monarchist party—the “people’s freedom” party.

The bourgeois press has every reason to rejoice! The gutter newspaper Sevodnya has solemnly declared in a special Leading article that, by taking this decision, the Mensheviks have saved Russia; and Rech, the official organ of the Cadets, has promised to reward the Mensheviks by ceding one seat in the worker curia to a “Menshevik”, but under no circumstances to a “Bolshevik”.

The first result of Menshevik independent action is that the bourgeoisie has begun to dictate its will to the worker curia.

Continuing its proceedings after the Mensheviks had walked out, the conference decided (hat, since there is no Black-Hundred danger in St. Petersburg, and in order to undermine the hegemony of the Cadets and free the democratic petty bourgeoisie from their influence, an agreement should be entered into, on definite terms, with   the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Trudoviks for the distribution of seats (two to the worker curia, two to the Social-Democrats, one to the Socialist-Revolutionaries and one to the Trudoviks).

The bourgeois press is jubilant: the Trudoviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries have formed a bloc with the Popular Socialists, which is gravitating to the Cadets; the Mensheviks have broken away—the Bolsheviks are isolated! Revolutionary tactics are condemned, “peaceful methods” are triumphant, hurrah for an agreement with the monarchy, and down with the method of popular mass struggle!

Having split the Social-Democrats and enfeebled the proletariat, the hydra of revolution, the Cadets shamelessly strike a bargain—with Mr. Stolypin. The newspapers report that the prime minister has granted Milyukov an audience to take place in a day or two, and that the prime minister’s condition for the legalisation of the Cadet Party is—no blocs with the Left. The Cadets are willing to con cede to the entire “Left”—actually, to the petty-bourgeois — bloc (the Popular Socialists, Socialist-Revolutionaries, Trudoviks, and Mensheviks) only two out of the six seats in St. Petersburg. To pacify the gallery the Cadets are prepared to throw two seats to the importunate petty-bourgeois bloc. As they are certain the Left bloc will not accept this, the Cadets are negotiating with Stolypin, the head of the Black Hundreds.

The scene changes. The election campaign begins. Election meetings are being held. The Mensheviks, who very, very rarely speak at these meetings, blather timidly about agreements with the Cadets. The Bolsheviks, who speak at all meetings, call upon proletarians and semi-proletarians to join a united workers’ party—the Social-Democratic Party; they call upon all revolutionary and democratic voters to form a united revolutionary bloc against the Black Hundreds and the Cadets. The Cadets are shouted down, while the Bolsheviks are applauded. The democrats in the city—the workers and the petty bourgeoisie—are swinging towards the Left and shaking off the Cadet yoke.

The scene changes: the “compromisers” are in a tearing rage. It is with foaming mouth that they speak of the Bolsheviks.   Down with the Bolsheviks! In moving unity Novoye Vremya[2] and Tovarishch, the Octobrists and the Cadets, the Vodovozovs and the Gromans launch a crusade against the red spectre of Bolshevism. If Bolshevism ever needed justification for its revolutionary and class tactics, it has now found it in the fury with which it is being at tacked by the entire bourgeois press. If the petty-bourgeois revolutionary democrats, sincerely striving to carry out their slogans, needed an object lesson, they are getting it now in the contempt with which they have been treated by the big and middle bourgeoisie, in the policy of compromise (with the government) which the Cadets are pursuing behind the backs of the people.

The revolutionary Social-Democrats say to all democrats among the urban and rural poor, only in alliance with the proletariat, only by throwing off the tutelage of the Cadets, only in a determined and consistent struggle against the autocracy will you find salvation. If you are mature enough for this, you will follow the proletariat. If not, you will remain under the tutelage of the Cadets; and, whatever the upshot of the election campaign, whatever the result of your bargaining among yourselves for seats, the proletariat will continue to pursue its own class revolutionary road.

Menshevism is now undergoing a severe test. The election campaign has become the corner-stone of its opportunist tactics. Part of the Social-Democrats have fallen under the hegemony of the bourgeois ideologists. Bourgeois ideologists are jeering scathingly at the Mensheviks, whom they call “moderate socialists” (the term Rech uses), who can always be depended on. Their friends from the Right do not take them into consideration ... they only count on their loyal service to the Cadets. A section of Social-Democrats have sunk so low that the liberal bourgeoisie regard them merely as subservient tools, and the revolutionary-minded proletariat prefers to vote for the Socialist-Revolutionaries (as was the case in the elections of delegates in the Menshevik stronghold—the Vyborg District) rather than vote for such Social-Democrats.

The crisis of opportunism is approaching. Menshevism is being dealt a decisive blow by the agreement with the   “compromisers”. The Vasilyevs, Malishevskys and Larins have paved the way to ... the cemetery. Confusion and mutual expulsion reign in the ranks of the Mensheviks. Martov is expelling the Vasilyevs and the Malishevskys from the Party. Let the workers expel the very spirit of Menshevism from the Party!


[1] Except in the Menshevik Vyborg District and Franco-Russian Subdistrict, where the platforms were not voted on.—Lenin

[2] Novoye Vremya (New Times)—a daily newspaper published in St. Petersburg from 1868 to October 1917. It began as a Moderate liberal paper but by the end of the seventies of the nineteenth century had become the organ of reactionary circles of the nobility and the bureaucracy. The newspaper waged a struggle, not only against the revolutionary but also against the bourgeois-liberal movement. From 1905 onwards it was one of the organs of the Black Hundreds. Lenin called Novoye Vremya a “specimen of the venal press”.

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