V. I.   Lenin

The Elections to the Duma and the Tactics of the Russian Social-Democrats

Published: Published on March 27, 1907, in Die Neue Zeit, No. 26, I. Band, 1906-07. Signed: A. Linitsch. Published according to the text in the magazine. Translated from the German.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 196-207.
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 Duma election results demonstrate the physiognomy and strength of the various classes.

The franchise in Russia is neither direct nor equal. In the first place, the peasants elect one delegate per ten house holds; these, in turn, elect a peasant delegate from among their number; the delegates so elected then elect a peasant elector, and the latter, together with electors from other social-estates, elect the deputies to the Duma. The system is the same for the landowner, urban and worker curias, the number of electors from each curia being fixed by law in the interests and to the advantage of the upper classes, the landowners and the bourgeoisie. Furthermore, not only the revolutionary parties, but the opposition parties as well are subjected to the most barbarous, the most illegal police oppression; then there is the complete absence of freedom of the press and assembly, arbitrary arrests and banishment, as well as the military courts operating in the greater part of Russia, and the state of emergency connected with them.

How, then, under such circumstances, could the new Duma have turned out more oppositional and more revolutionary than the First?

To find an answer to this question, we must first of all examine the figures published in the Cadet Rech on the distribution of the electors according to party, in connection with the party-political composition of the Second Duma; these figures cover about nine-tenths of all the electors in European Russia (Poland, the Caucasus, Siberia, etc., being excluded). Let us take the five chief political   groups, since more detailed information on electors’ political leanings is not available. The first group consists of the Rights. To this group belong those known as the Black Hundreds (the monarchists, the Union of the Russian People, etc.), who champion a return to complete autocracy in its purest form, favour unbridled military terror against revolutionaries, and instigate assassinations (like that of Duma Deputy Herzenstein), pogroms, etc. Further, this group includes the so-called Octobrists (this is the name given in Russia to the party of the big industrialists), who joined the counter-revolution immediately after the tsar’s manifesto of October 17, 1905, and who now support the government in every possible way. This party frequently forms election blocs with the monarchists.

The second group consists of those belonging to no party. We shall see later that many electors and deputies, especially those of the peasantry, hid behind this name in order to escape repressions for their revolutionary convictions.

The liberals form the third group. The liberal parties are headed by the Constitutional-Democrats (known as the Cadet Party), or “people’s freedom” party. This party constitutes the Centre in the Russian revolution; it stands between the landlords and the peasants. The bourgeoisie tries to reconcile these two classes. The assessment of this party of the liberal bourgeoisie—the Cadets—is a most important point of difference between the two trends within Russian Social-Democracy.

For opportunist reasons and not because of their political convictions, the Polish Black Hundreds are on the side of the Russian liberals in the Duma; this is the party of “National-Democrats” who in Poland use every means, including informing, lock-outs and assassination, to struggle against the revolutionary proletariat.

The fourth group is the Progressists. This is not the name of a party, but, like the term “non-party” is a meaningless conventional term whose primary purpose is to Serve as a screen against police persecution.

Lastly, the fifth group is the Lefts. To this group belong the Social-Democratic and Socialist-Revolutionary parties, the Popular Socialists (approximately the equivalent of   the French Radical Socialists) and those known as the Trudoviks[1] –a still completely amorphous peasant democratic organisation. In their class character, the Trudoviks, Popular Socialists and Socialist-Revolutionaries are petty bourgeois and peasant democrats. Sometimes electors from some revolutionary groups attempted to hide under the general name of “Lefts” during the election campaign, in order the better to escape police persecution.

The Rech figures will now show the correctness of the conclusions we have drawn concerning the social composition of the parties.

I. Number of Electors
Parties Fifty-One Gubernias of European Russia Big Cities
Landowner Urban Peasant Worker Total
Rights 1,224 70.9 182 13.9 764 33.8 2,170 40.0 346 20.7
Non-party 81 4.7 27 2.1 248 11.0 2 1.4 358 6.6
Liberals 154 8.9 504 38.7 103 4.6 761 14.0 940 56.4
Progressists 185 10.7 280 21.5 561 24.9 3 2.1 1,029 18.9 55 3.3
Lefts 82 4.8 311 23.8 582 25.7 140 96.5 1,115 20.5 627 19.6
Totals 1,726 100 1,304 100 2,258 100 145 100 5,433 100 1,668 100
II. Number of Duma Deputies
Parties 51 Gubernias of European Russia Poland Caucasus Siberia and
From the
D’s % D’s % D’s % D’s % D’s % D’s % D’s %
Rights 85 25.7 4 7.5 5 18.5 1 2.7 2 7.1 97 19.8
Non-party 18 5.4 3 5.7 1 7.1 22 4.5
Liberals 82 24.8 10 18.9 17 63.0 32 86.5 9 32.2 6 42.9 156 31.8
Progressists 20 6.0 10 18.9 3 8.1 2 7.1 35 7.1
Lefts 126 38.1 26 49.0 5 18.5 1 2.7 15 53.6 7 50.0 180 36.8
Totals 331 100 53 100 27 100 37 100 28 100 14 100 490 100

As can be seen from the tables (on pages 199 and 200), the big cities constitute a special group—St. Petersburg elects 6 deputies, Moscow 4, Warsaw and Tashkent 2 each, the remainder 1 each, a total of 27 deputies for 17 cities. The remaining deputies to the Duma are elected at joint meetings of electors of all four curias for each gubernia; but in addition to this the peasant electors elect one deputy from the peasant curia for each gubernia. Thus we get three groups of deputies—from the gubernia electoral meeting, from the peasant curia and from the big cities.

A few dozen electors from the progressive or Left bloc could be ascribed to the various party groups only on the basis of estimates; on the whole, however, these figures provide the fullest and most reliable material for an understanding of the class structure of the various Russian parties.

The worker curia even in the provinces, and, needless to say, particularly in the big cities, voted almost exclusively Left, 96.5 per cent to be exact. Out of the 140 Left electors from the worker curia 84 were Social-Democrats, 52 were unspecified Lefts (but mostly Social-Democrats), and four were Socialist-Revolutionaries. Despite the false assertions of the liberals who want to depict it as a party of revolutionary intellectuals, the Russian Social-Democratic Party is, therefore, a real working-class party. In St.       Petersburg—both the city and the gubernia—of the twenty-four electors chosen by the worker curia twenty were Social-Democrats and four Socialist-Revolutionaries; in Moscow—both the city and the gubernia—only Social-Democrats were elected—thirty-five, etc.

In the peasant curia we immediately see an astonishing disproportion; 33.8 per cent of the peasant electors belong to the Right, whereas of the Duma deputies elected by those same electors from the peasant curia only 7.5 per cent were Rights. Obviously the peasant electors only called themselves Rights to avoid government repressions. The Russian press has recorded this phenomenon in more than a hundred cases, and the election statistics now provide full confirmation of it.

The peasant curia cannot be judged by what the electors call themselves, but exclusively by the party which their deputies consider themselves as belonging to. We see that, following upon the worker curia, the peasant curia forms the group that is most Left. The peasants elected only 7.5 per cent Rights and 67.95 per cent standing Left of the liberals! The greater part of the Russian peasantry are revolutionary in temper—such is the lesson to be drawn from the elections to the Second Duma. This is a fact of great importance because it shows that the revolution in Russia has not come to an end by a long way. Until the peasant’s demands have been met, or, at least, until he has calmed down, the revolution must continue. Of course, the peasant’s revolutionary temper has nothing in common with Social-Democracy; the peasant is a bourgeois-democratic revolutionary, and by no means a socialist. He is not struggling for the transfer of all means of production into the hands of society, but for the confiscation of the landlord’s land by the peasantry.

The bourgeois-democratic, revolutionary consciousness of the peasantry finds its typical party-political expression in the Trudoviks’, and in the Socialist-Revolutionary and the Popular Socialist parties. Out of the fifty-three Duma deputies from the peasant curia, twenty-four belong to the peasant democrats (ten Lefts, ten Trudoviks and four Socialist-Revolutionaries), and, furthermore, of the ten Progressists and three non-party deputies elected by the peasants   the majority undoubtedly belong to the Trudoviks. We say “undoubtedly” because the Trudoviks have been ruthlessly persecuted since the First Duma, and the peas ants are wary enough not to call themselves Trudoviks, although in actual fact they vote together with the Trudoviks in the Duma. For example, the most important bill introduced in the First Duma by the Trudoviks was the Agrarian Bill, known as the “Draft of the 104” (the essence of this Bill was the immediate nationalisation of the landlords’ land, the future nationalisation of peasant allotments and equalitarian laud tenure). This, Bill is an outstanding product of peasant political thought on one of the most important problems of peasant life. It was endorsed by seventy Trudoviks and by twenty-five peasants who described themselves as non-party, or gave no answer to the question on their party membership!

Thus the “Trudovik” Group in Russia is undoubtedly a rural, peasant democratic party. It comprises parties that are revolutionary not in the socialist, but in the bourgeois-democratic sense of the word.

A distinction must be made between the big cities and the smaller towns in the urban curia. The political contradictions between the different classes are not so clearly marked in the smaller towns, where there are no large masses of proletarians (who form a special worker curia) and the Rights are weaker. In the big cities there are no non-party electors at all, and the number of indeterminate “Progressists” is insignificant; but here the Right is stronger and the Left weaker. The reason is a simple one; in the big cities the proletariat constitutes a separate curia, which is not included in our table of electors.[2] The petty bourgeoisie are less numerous than in the smaller towns. Big industry predominates, and is represented partly by the Rights and partly by the liberals.

The figures on the composition of the electors show convincingly that the basis of the liberal parties (mainly, therefore, the Cadets) is the urban, primarily the big industrial bourgeoisie. The swing to the Right of this bourgeoisie, which is frightened by the independent action and strength of the proletariat, becomes particularly clear when we compare the larger cities and the smaller towns. The urban (i.e., bourgeois) curia is permeated with Left elements to a much greater degree in the latter.

The basic differences amongst Russian Social-Democrats are closely connected with this last problem. One wing (the Minority, or “Mensheviks”) regard the Cadets and liberals as being the progressive urban bourgeoisie as compared with the backward rural petty bourgeoisie (Trudoviks). It follows from this that the bourgeoisie is recognised as the motive force of the revolution, and a policy of support for the Cadets is proclaimed. The other wing (the Majority, or “Bolsheviks”) regards the liberals as representatives of big industry, who are striving to put an end to the revolution as quickly as possible for fear of the proletariat, and are entering into a compromise with the reactionaries. This wing regards the Trudoviks as revolutionary petty-bourgeois democrats, and is of the opinion that they are inclined to adopt a radical position on a land question of such importance to the peasantry, the question of the confiscation of the landed estates. This accounts for the tactics of the Bolsheviks. They reject support for the treacherous liberal bourgeoisie, i.e., the Cadets, and do their utmost to get the democratic petty bourgeoisie away from the influence of the liberals; they want to draw the peasant and the urban petty bourgeois away from the liberals and muster them behind the proletariat, behind the vanguard, for the revolutionary struggle. In its social-economic content, the Russian revolution is a bourgeois revolution; its motive force, however, is not the liberal bourgeoisie but the proletariat and the democratic peasantry. The victory of the revolution can only be achieved by a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.

If we want to know exactly whether the alliance between the liberals and the urban petty bourgeoisie is a stable one, we shall be interested in the statistics on the number   of votes cast in the cities for the party blocs, According to Smirnov’s statistics for 22 big cities, 17,000 votes were cast for the monarchists, 34,500 for the Octobrists, 74,000 for the Cadets and 41,000 for the Left bloc.[3]

During the elections to the Second Duma a fierce struggle was waged between the two wings of Social-Democracy, between Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, on the question of whether to enter into a bloc with the Cadets or with the Trudoviks against the Cadets. In Moscow the supporters of the Bolsheviks were stronger; a Left bloc was formed there, with the Mensheviks taking part in it. In St. Petersburg the Bolsheviks were also stronger, and a Left bloc was formed there as well, but the Mensheviks did not take part and withdrew from the organisation. A split occurred and still continues. The Mensheviks referred to the Black-Hundred danger, i.e., they feared a victory of the Black Hundreds at the elections because of the votes of the Lefts and the liberals being split. The Bolsheviks declared that this danger was an invention of the liberals, whose one purpose was to attract petty-bourgeois and proletarian democracy under the wing of bourgeois liberals. The figures show that the total number of votes cast for the Lefts and the Cadets was more than double the combined votes cast for the Octobrists and the monarchists.[4] A split vote for the opposition, therefore, could not have helped the victory of the Right.

These figures, covering more than 200,000 urban voters, and data on the general composition of the Second Duma, show that the real political meaning of the blocs of Social-Democrats   and Cadets is by no means the avoidance of the Black-Hundred danger (this opinion, even if it were sincere, is, in general, a false one); the blocs were meant to thwart the independent policy of the working class and subordinate that class to the hegemony of the liberals.

The essence of the dispute between the two wings of the Russian Social-Democratic. Party is in deciding whether to recognise the hegemony of the liberals or whether to strive for the hegemony of the working class in the bourgeois revolution.

The fact that in twenty-two cities the Left, on the first agreement between the Social-Democrats and the Trudoviks against the Cadets and despite the unprecedented difficulties with which their agitation was faced, obtained 41,000 votes, i.e., received more votes than the Octobrists, and over half as many as the liberals,—this fact is proof enough for the Bolsheviks that the democratic petty bourgeoisie in the cities follow the Cadets more from force of habit and because of the intrigues of the liberals than because of the hostility of these strata to the revolution.

Now let us examine the last curia, that of the land owners. Here we find a clearly expressed preponderance of Rights—70.9 per cent of the electors are Rights. It is absolutely inevitable that, under the impact of the peasant struggle for land, the big landed proprietor should turn away from the revolution and towards counter-revolution.

If we now compare the composition of the electoral groups at the gubernia election meetings with the composition of the Duma from the standpoint of the political tinge of the deputies elected at those meetings, we shall see that Progressist is, to a considerable extent, only a name concealing the Lefts. There were 20.5% Lefts and 18.9% Progressists among the electors. Of the deputies, 38% belong to the Lefts! The Rights have only 25.7% deputies while they had 40% of the electors; but if we subtract electors from the peasantry from this figure (we have already shown that only agents of the Russian Government who falsified the information on the election could regard them as Rights), then we get 2,170–764=4,406 belonging to the Right electors, i.e., 25.8%. And so the two results coincide. The liberal electors, apparently, concealed themselves   partly under the name of “non-party” and partly under the name of “Progressist”, and the peasants, even under the name of “Rights”.

A comparison with the non-Russian parts of Russia, with Poland and the Caucasus, provides fresh proof that the real motive force of the bourgeois revolution in Russia is not the bourgeoisie. In Poland there is no revolutionary peasant movement, no urban bourgeois opposition and there are practically no liberals. The revolutionary proletariat is opposed by a reactionary bloc composed of the big and the petty bourgeoisie. There, the National-Democrats were therefore victorious. In the Caucasus the revolutionary peasant movement is very strong, the strength of the liberals is almost equal to that in Russia, but the Lefts are the strongest party there: the percentage of Lefts in the Duma (53.6%) is approximately the same as the percentage of deputies from the peasant curia (49%). Only the workers and the revolutionary democratic peasantry can complete the bourgeois revolution. There, is no agrarian problem in the Russian sense in highly developed capitalist Poland, and there is no revolutionary struggle on the part of the peasantry to confiscate the landed estates. The revolution, therefore, has no sound basis in Poland outside the proletariat. The class contradictions there are getting closer to the West-European type. We meet with the opposite in the Caucasus.

Here let us mention the fact that, according to Rech estimates, the 180 Lefts are distributed among the various parties in the following way: 68 Lefts, 9 Popular Socialists (the Right wing of the Trudoviks), 28 Socialist-Revolutionaries and 46 Social-Democrats.... Actually the last-named now number 65. The liberals try to minimise the number of Social-Democrats as far as possible.

These groups may be divided into two strata according to their class structure: the urban and, particularly, the rural democratic petty bourgeoisie have 134 deputies, and the proletariat, 46 deputies.

In general, we see that in Russia the class stratification of the various parties is expressed with unusual clarity. The big landed proprietors belong to the Black Hundreds, the monarchists and the Octobrists. The big industrialists   are represented by the Octobrists and the liberals. Land owners in Russia are divided, according to the system of farming, into those that run their farms in a semi-feudal manner, employing the animals and implements of the peas ants (the peasants are in bondage to the landlord), and those who now run their farms in the modern, capitalist manner. There are more than a few liberals among the latter. The urban petty bourgeoisie are represented by the liberals and the Trudoviks. The peasant petty bourgeoisie are represented by the Trudoviks, especially the Left wing of the group, the Socialist-Revolutionaries. The proletariat has its representative in the Social-Democrats. With an obvious lag in the capitalist development of Russia, this clear-cut division into party groups according to the class structure of society is only to be explained by the stormy revolutionary mood of an epoch in which parties are formed more quickly and class-consciousness grows and takes shape infinitely more quickly than in an epoch of stagnation or of so-called peaceful progress.


[1] In the German press this party is often called the “labour group”, which seems to point to kinship with the working class. In actual fact there is not even this verbal relationship between them in Russian. it is, therefore, better to leave The word “Trudoviks” untranslated, using it to mean petty-bourgeois, specifically peasant, democrats.—Lenin

[2] There are no data for this, and so the figures on electors from the worker curia have been removed from the table. We have precise figures on only 37 worker-electors. All of them, without exception, belong to the Left. According to the law, the total number of worker-electors for the whole of Russia is 208. We have more precise data concerning 145 of them, which, together with the above mentioned 37 electors from the worker curia in the big cities makes 182, i.e., nine-tenths of the total number of worker-electors.—Lenin

[3] By “Left bloc” we mean the election bloc of the Social-Democrats and the petty-bourgeois democratic parties (primarily the Trudoviks, using that name in its widest sense and recognising the Socialist-Revolutionaries as the Left wing of the group). This was a bloc directed against both the Rights and the liberals.—Lenin

[4] According to the estimates of that same Mr. Smirnov, in sixteen cities where 72,000 people went to the polls and where there were two (or three) election lists instead of four, the opposition obtained 58.7% and the Rights 21% of the votes. Here,. too, the first figure is more than double the second. Here, too, the danger from the Black Hundreds was a deceptive bogey invented by the liberals, who talked a lot about the danger from the Right although they actually feared the “Left danger” (an expression which we borrow from the Cadet newspaper Rech).—Lenin

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