V. I.   Lenin

Report to the Conference of the St. Petersburg Organisation on the Question of the Duma Campaign and Duma Tactics[1]

Brief Newspaper Report

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 127-132.
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.README

The speaker pointed out that the question of Duma tactics was undoubtedly the central policy question at that time, and was therefore the main point around which the congress campaign would revolve. Two of the questions that the Central Committee had included in its proposed congress agenda, as reported in the newspapers, were brought into the foreground—that of immediate political tasks and that of the State Duma.

The first question, he said, had been formulated very vaguely. The Mensheviks may have taken it to mean support for a Cadet ministry, but did not care to say so openly. At all events they had shown a noticeable desire to shelve once again the fundamental questions of Social-Democratic tactics in the Russian revolution, just as they had done at the Fourth (Unity) Congress. By that time, experience too had taught them that if these questions were evaded the Social-Democrats would have no consistent party tactics of any sort. It would be sufficient to recall that the Central Committee’s tactics on the question of supporting the Duma (i.e., Cadet) ministry (June 1906) failed to receive the backing, not only of the Party in general, but of the Social-Democratic group in the Duma in particular. After the dissolution of the Duma, the famous “partial mass expressions of protest”, proposed by the Central Committee, had shared the same fate. The attitude towards   the Cadets in the elections was then so uncertain in the Party that among the most influential and responsible Mensheviks—a special opinion was expressed—by Cherevanin before the All-Russian Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. in November (1906), and by Plekhanov (not to mention Vasilyev) after it.

Such being the situation, it was the duty of revolutionary Social-Democrats to take advantage of full representation at the Fifth Party Congress, where the Poles, Letts and Bundists would be represented for the first time, in order to raise fundamental questions of the tactics of Social-Democracy in the Russian bourgeois revolution. It would be no use discussing “immediate political tasks” without first clearing up the basic questions—the tasks of the proletariat in our revolution in general, whether objective conditions existed for the further development of the revolution, the alignment of classes and parties at the time and, especially, the class character of the Cadet Party. Unless these questions were settled—and that would be facilitated by the wealth of experience gained from the First Duma and the elections to the Second—it would be impossible to find a principled and intelligent solution to the problem of the Cadet ministry, that of the tactics to be pursued in the event of the dissolution of the Second Duma, etc., etc.

The speaker therefore went on to cover these questions briefly. The economic conditions of the masses of the population offered clear evidence that the fundamental aims of the revolution had not been accomplished; an objective basis for immediate mass movements existed. This was reflected, in politics, in an intensification of the conflict between the autocracy, which was then coming to an understanding with the organised Black-Hundred landlords, and the masses—not only of the proletariat but also of the rural poor (after the worker curia, the peasant curia had yielded the largest percentage of Left electors!), and the urban poor (Cadet hegemony over the petty-bourgeois urban democrats had undoubtedly been seriously shaken by tile elections to the Second Duma). It therefore followed that a revolutionary, and not a constitutional crisis was approaching, and that the struggle inside the Duma was, owing   to objective conditions, again engendering a struggle outside the Duma, the transition to which would be accelerated if the activities of the Social-Democrats and bourgeois democrats inside the Duma were successful. It was the task of the proletariat, as leader in the democratic revolution, to develop the revolutionary consciousness, determination and organisation of the masses, and to free the petty bourgeoisie from the leadership of the liberals. Support for a liberal ministry, ostensibly responsible to the Duma but actually dependent on the Black-Hundred tsarist gang, was out of the question. The possibility of utilising such a ministry (supposing it proved a reality and not an empty promise to fool the Cadets, like Stolypin’s promise to legalise the Cadets, made in January 1907 to keep the Cadets from entering into blocs with the Lefts) would depend entirely on the strength of the revolutionary classes, their political consciousness and solidarity.

As far as the class character of the various parties was concerned, the past year had been universally marked by the rightward swing of the upper classes and the leftward swing of the lower classes. The Centre was growing weaker and being eroded by the flood of advancing revolutionary development. The Black Hundreds had gained strength and were better organised; they had established close relations with one of the strongest economic class forces of old Russia—the feudal landlords. The Octobrists were still the party of the counter-revolutionary big bourgeoisie. The Cadets had made a sweeping swing to the Right. It was becoming more and more evident that their mainstay was the liberal (middle) landlords, the middle bourgeoisie and the top bourgeois intelligentsia. They carried the urban poor with them by force of tradition, deceiving them with loud-sounding phrases about “the people’s freedom”. The elections to the Second Duma had proved directly that the Lefts, even under most adverse conditions, had to a very large extent captured the “lower section” of urban democrats from the Cadets, at the very first onslaught.

The Cadets had shifted to the Right, towards the Octobrists. The democratic petty bourgeoisie in the towns, and still more in the country, had gained greater strength and had gone more to the Left than the rest. The speaker   recalled that up to the spring of 1906 this petty bourgeoisie had had no extensive political experience of legal party organisation. Considerable experience had now been gained—beginning with that of the Trudoviks in the First Duma to that of the unexpectedly large number of “Lefts” and ’Trudoviks” elected to the Second Duma.

The Bolshevik view that the Russian revolution could not be achieved by the liberals but only by the proletariat, if it succeeded in winning the peasant masses to its side, had been remarkably well confirmed by the experience of 1906 and 1907.

The Duma tactics of revolutionary Social-Democracy emerged logically from these premises. Social-Democrats would have to regard the Duma as one of the instruments of the revolution and resolutely, openly and clearly unfurl their consistent, proletarian revolutionary banner in full view of the masses. They would have to engage in agitation, propaganda, and organisation to develop the revolution and explain to the masses that another great struggle out side the Duma would be inevitable. The Cadet phrases about “blowing up the Duma” were a vile provocation on the part of a liberal who had secret talks with Stolypin. Don’t “blow up” the Duma, don’t allow the Duma to be dissolved— these phrases meant “do nothing that would be too unpleasant for Stolypin & Co.”. The Social-Democrats would have to expose the provocative nature of this police-like Cadet catchword and show that even in the First Duma the con duct of the Social-Democratic Party (Bolsheviks and Mensheviks alike) had made all artificial revolutionary “paths”, “proclamations”, etc., impossible. The Cadets knew this and in true Novoye Vremya style were substituting “blowing-up” tactics for the tactics of developing a mass, people’s revolution.

The Social-Democrats in the Duma would have to do the same as they had done in the St. Petersburg elections— unfurl their revolutionary banner, compel the vacillating petty bourgeoisie to choose between them and the Cadets; and consent, in periods of decisive action, to partial agreements in particular cases with those petty-bourgeois democrats who would follow them against the Black Hundreds and the Cadets. After explaining the significance of the   “Left bloc” in the Duma and the conditions under which it should be termed, the speaker voiced a strong warning against regarding it as a permanent agreement that would in any way tie the hands of the Social-Democrats, or as a long-term agreement concluded against future contingencies. There would have been no Left bloc in the St. Petersburg elections if the Social-Democrats there had bound themselves by a permanent agreement or even by a provisional agreement with the Narodniks, all of whom, even the “revolutionary” Socialist-Revolutionaries, had gone with the Mensheviks to the Cadets to sell out democracy! Only by pursuing a firm and independent policy, and not by diplomacy arid petty bargaining, could the Social-Democrats secure, where necessary, the co-operation of those elements of the democratic bourgeoisie that are really capable of fighting.

Concluding Speech

The speaker opposed this in his concluding speech.[2] On the one hand, even during the most militant actions the Social-Democrats would absolutely have to remain a free and independent party with its own organisation even in the “joint” Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, etc. On the other hand, they could not commit the error of the Mensheviks, whose conception of a “political bloc” was something opposed to a “fighting alliance”, because all agreements are permissible only within the limits of a certain political line. Of course, in opposing the Cadets on a given question, the Social-Democrats in the Duma could not reject agreements with the Lefts, if the latter followed the Social-Democrats on that question and if such an agreement were essential to gain a parliamentary victory over the Cadets (e.g., to amend a law, to delete some particularly objectionable passage from an address, declaration or decision, etc.). But it would be folly and a crime for Social-Democrats to tie their hands by means of ally thing like permanent and restricting agreements with anyone.


[1] The Conference of St. Petersburg (City and Regional) Organisations took place in February 1907. It was attended by Bolsheviks only, 27 with the right to vote, and 14 with consultative voice. The Conference adopted the following agenda: (1) the forthcoming elections to the State Duma in St. Petersburg and in the worker curia; (2) the Duma campaign and the Duma tactics of Social-Democracy; (3) the campaign for a congress, i. e., preparations for a Party congress; (4) the reorganisation of the St. Petersburg organisation; (5) the tribunal to examine the case of N. Lenin (the occasion when Lenin was arraigned before the Party tribunal by the Menshevik C.C. for his pamphlet “The Elections In St. Petersburg and the Hypocrisy of the Thirty-One Mensheviks”); (6) the attitude to the breakaway Mensheviks; (7) agitational literature in St. Petersburg.

The Conference discussed the first point and nominated two candidates for election as deputies to the State Duma and elected a commission to draw up instructions for workers’ delegates, electors and deputies.

Lenin delivered a report on the second point, which was approved, as were the fundamental principles for the structure of the St. Petersburg organisation as elaborated by the St. Petersburg Committee.

On the question of Lenin’s arraignment before the Party tribunal by the Menshevik C.C., the Conference gave full support to Lenin, recognised the guilt of the Mensheviks in engineering the split in the St. Petersburg Social-Democratic organisation on the eve of the elections to the Second State Duma, and condemned the schismatist activities of F. I. Dan, Menshevik member of the C.C. The Conference decided to set up a commission to control the Party press and send representatives of the St. Petersburg Party organisation to the editorial boards of Proletary and Vperyod. The Conference elected delegates to a meeting of a number of Bolshevik   organisations, called to elaborate a platform for the Fifth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

[2] In the discussion on Lenin’s report to the Conference, the question had been raised of limiting the agreement between Social-Democracy and revolutionary democracy to purely combat questions (insurrection, strikes); it was asked whether in such cases a single, common revolutionary organisation would not be necessary.

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