V. I.   Lenin

The Fourth Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. (“Third All-Russian”)[1]

From a Newspaper Report

Published: Proletary, No, 20, November 19, 1907. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 13, pages 141-146.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs
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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Report on the Tactics of the Social-Democratic Group in the Third State Duma

Comrade Lenin proceeded from the premise that the objective aims of the Russian revolution have not been achieved and that the period of reaction which has set in imposes upon the proletariat the task of defending the cause of democracy and the cause of the revolution more firmly than ever in face of the widespread vacillation. Hence the view that the Duma should be used for the purposes of the revolution, should be used mainly for promulgating the Party’s political and socialist views and not for legislative “reforms”, which, in any case, would mean supporting the counter-revolution and curtailing democracy in every way.

In the words of Comrade Lenin, the “crux” of the Duma question must lie in an explanation of the following three points: (a) what is the class composition of the Duma? (b) what should be and will be the attitude of the Duma centres towards the revolution and democracy? (c) what is the significance of Duma activity for the progress of the Russian revolution?

On the first question, on the basis of an analysis of the Duma composition (according to data on the party affiliations of the deputies), Lenin stressed that the views of the famous so-called “opposition” could secure endorsement in the Third Duma only on one condition, that no less than 87 Octobrists co-operated with the Cadets and the Left.   Cadets and the Left were short of 87 votes for obtaining a majority in the voting on a Bill. Consequently, effective legislative activity in the Duma was possible only if the bulk of the Octobrists participated in it. What this kind of legislative activity would lead to and what disgrace Social-Democracy would incur by such a link-up with the Octobrists were all too obvious. This was not a matter of abstract principle. Speaking, abstractly, one could and sometimes should support the representatives of the big bourgeoisie. But in this case it was necessary to consider the concrete conditions of development of the Russian bourgeois-democratic revolution. The Russian bourgeoisie had long embarked on the path of struggle against the revolution and of compromises with the autocracy. The recent Cadet congress had finally stripped off all the fig-leaves with which the Milyukovs and Co. had been covering them selves, and was an important political event inasmuch as the Cadets had declared with cynical frankness that they were going, into the Octobrist-Black-Hundred Duma to legislate and that they would fight the “enemies on the Left”. Thus, two possible majorities in the Duma—the Octobrist-Black-Hundred and the Cadet-Octobrist—and both, in different ways, would work towards tightening the screw of reaction: the first, by trying to restore the autocracy, the second, by making deals with the government and introducing illusory reforms that disguise the counter revolutionary aspirations of the bourgeoisie. Thus, Social-Democracy could not lend its support to legislative reforms, as this would be tantamount to supporting the government, Octobrist, party. The way of “reforms” on the present political basis and with the present balance of forces would not mean improving the condition of the masses, or expanding freedom, but bureaucratically regulating the non-freedom and enslavement of the masses. Such, for example, were the Stolypin agrarian reforms under Article 87.[2] They were progressive in clearing the way for capitalism, but it was the kind of progress that no Social-Democrat could bring himself to support. The Mensheviks were harping on one string, namely, the class interests of the bourgeoisie are bound to clash with those of the autocracy! But there was not a grain of historic truth in this vulgar would-be   Marxism. Did not Napoleon III and Bismarck succeed for a time in appeasing the appetites of the big bourgeoisie? Did they not, by their “reforms”, tighten the noose round the neck of the working people for years to come? What grounds then were there for believing that the Russian government, in its deal with the bourgeoisie, was likely to agree to any other kind of reforms?

[Proletary, No, 20, November 19, 1907]



Resolution on the Tactics of the Social-Democratic Group in the Third State Duma

In pursuance of the resolution of the London Congress on the State Duma and on non-proletarian parties, the All-Russian Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. deems it necessary, in elaboration of these resolutions, to state the following:

(1) In the Third Duma, which is the outcome of the coup d’état of June 3, there are two possible majorities: that of the Black-Hundreds-Octobrists and that of the Octobrists Cadets. The first, expressing chiefly the interests of the semi-feudal landlords, is counter-revolutionary and stands mainly for protecting landlord interests and increased repression going to the length of striving for complete restoration of the autocracy. The second majority, expressing chiefly the interests of the big bourgeoisie, is likewise definitely counter-revolutionary, but inclined to cover up its struggle against the, revolution with certain illusory bureaucratic reforms;

(2) such a situation in the Duma is extremely favourable to a double political game being played by both the government and the Cadets. The government, while intensifying repression and continuing its “conquest” of Russia by military force, seeks to pose as a supporter of constitutional reforms. The Cadets, while actually voting with the counter-revolutionary Octobrists, seek to pose not only as an opposition, but as spokesmen of democracy. Under these conditions the Social-Democrats have a particular responsibility for ruthlessly exposing this game, laying bare before the people both the oppression of the Black-Hundred landlords and the government and the counter-revolutionary   policy of the Cadets. Direct or indirect support for the Cadets by the Social-Democrats—whether in the form of an Information Bureau with the participation of the Cadets or by adapting our actions to their policy, etc.—would now directly harm the cause of class education of the mass of the workers and the cause of the revolution;

(3) while upholding their socialist aims and criticising all the bourgeois parties from this standpoint, the Social-Democrats, in their propaganda, should give prominence to the task of making it clear to the broad masses that the Third Duma fails completely to meet the interests and demands of the people, and in this connection conduct widespread and vigorous propaganda for the idea of a constituent assembly based on universal, direct, and equal suffrage by secret ballot;

(4) one of the principal tasks of Social-Democracy in the Third Duma is to expose the class nature of the government’s and the liberals’ proposals and to systematically oppose to them the demands of the Social-Democratic minimum programme without any whittling-down, with special attention to questions affecting the economic interests of the broad masses (the labour and agrarian questions, the budget, etc.)—the more so as the composition of the Third Duma promises exceptionally abundant material for the propaganda activities of Social-Democrats

(5) the Social-Democratic group should take special care that no outward coincidence between Social-Democratic voting and the voting of the Black-Hundred-Octobrist or Octobrist-Cadet blocs should be used in the sense of sup porting one bloc or the other;

(6) the Social-Democrats in the Duma should introduce Bills and use their right to make interpellations, for which purpose they should co-operate with other groups to the left of the Cadets without in any way retreating from the programme and tactics of Social-Democracy and without entering into any kind of blocs. The Social-Democratic group should immediately propose to the Left deputies of the Duma the formation of an Information Bureau which would not bind its participants but would enable the workers’ deputies to exert systematic influence upon democratic elements in the spirit of Social-Democratic policy;

(7) among the first concrete steps of the Social-Democratic group in the Duma the Conference deems it necessary to place special emphasis on the need: (1) to come forward with a special declaration; (2) to make an interpellation concerning the coup d’état of June 3; (3) to raise in the Duma, in the most advisable form, the question of the trial of the Social-Democratic group in the Second Duma.

[Proletary, No. 20, November 19, 1907]


[1] The Fourth Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. (“Third All-Russian”) was held in Helsingfors (Helsinki) November 5-12 (18-23), 1907, shortly after the elections to the Third Duma. Twenty-seven delegates attended the Conference: ten Bolsheviks, four Mensheviks, five Polish S.D.’s five Bundists, and three Lettish S.D.’s.

The agenda of the Conference contained the following questions: the tactics of the S.D. group in the Duma, the question of group centres, and the strengthening of the C.C.’s contacts with the local organisations, and the participation of Social-Democrats in the bourgeois press. The Conference also discussed the question of giving a name to Social-Democratic representation in the Duma. The report on the tactics of the S.D. group in the Third Duma was made by Lenin. His evaluation of the June-the-third regime and the tasks of the Party was challenged by the Mensheviks and the Bundists, who spoke in favour of supporting the Cadets and the “Left” Octobrists in the Duma. By a majority of votes, the Conference adopted the Bolshevik resolution proposed on behalf of the St. Petersburg City Conference. It also adopted the Bolshevik resolution on the inadmissibility of S.D. participation in the bourgeois press, directed against the Menshevik publicists, especially Plekhanov, who had criticised the decisions of the Third Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. (the “Second All-Russian”) in the Left Cadet newspaper Tovarishch. The Conference named S.D. representation in the Duma “the Social-Democratic group”.

In view of the fact that the Menshevik centre, behind the back of the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., was making contacts with the local committees, the Conference outlined measures for strengthening contacts between the C.C. of the Party and the local

By adopting Leninist decisions on fundamental issues, The Fourth Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. equipped the Party with correct, Marxist tactics in the struggle to win the masses during the period of reaction.

The minutes of the Conference have not been found. The proceedings and decisions were extensively reported by the Bolshevik news paper Proletary, No. 20, November 19, 1907.

[2] Lenin is referring to the agrarian laws drafted by Stolypin and promulgated by the tsarist government in November 1906. A ukase, “On Amendments to Certain Enactments Regarding Peasant Land Tenure and Ownership”, was issued on November 9 (22), 1906; after being passed by the Duma and the Council of State, it became known as the Law of June 14, 1910. Another ukase was issued on November 15 (28), 1906, “On the Issue of Loans by the Peasant Land Bank on Security of Allotment Lands”. Under these laws the peasant was given the right to take possession of his allotment as   private property and withdraw from the village commune to his otrub or khutor. The otrub or khutor peasant could receive a loan from the Peasant Bank to acquire his property. The object of Stolypin’s agrarian reforms was to create a mainstay for the autocracy in the countryside in the shape of a class of kulaks, while preserving landlord ownership and destroying the village communes. This policy hastened capitalist evolution of agriculture by the most painful, “Prussian” method, while p reserving the power, property, and privileges of the semi-feudal landlords; it intensified the forcible expropriation of the bulk of the peasants,and accelerated the development of a peasant bourgeoisie, which was enabled to buy up the allotments of the poor peasants for a song.

Lenin called the Stolypin agrarian legislation of 1906 (and the Law promulgated on June 14 1271, 1910) the second step, after the 1861 Reform, towards converting tsarism into a bourgeois monarchy. “The ‘delay’ granted to the old order. and the old semi-feudal landlordism by Stolypin,” wrote Lenin, “opened another, and last, safety valve without expropriating the whole landownership of the landlords” (see present edition, Vol. 18, “The Last Valve”). Despite the government’s propaganda drive to encourage the peasants to withdraw from the communes, only some 2,500,000 peasant house holds withdrew from the communes in European Russia in the nine years 1907-15. Those most interested in this arrangement were the rural bourgeoisie, for it enabled them to build up their farms. Some poor peasants, too, left the communes in order to sell their allotments and have done with village life. The bulk. of the small impoverished peasants, however, continued the same old miserable existence on their backward farms.

Stolypin’s agrarian policy did not do away with the fundamental antagonism between the peasantry as a whole and the landlords, and led to the still greater impoverishment of the peasant masses and the aggravation of class contradictions between the kulaks and the rural poor.

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