V. I.   Lenin

The Third Duma

Published: Proletary, No. 18, October 29, 1907. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 13, pages 123-132.
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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The government is garnering the results of the infamous crime which it committed against the people on June 3. The grotesque electoral law which, for the benefit of a handful of landlords and capitalists, completely distorts the will not only of the nation as a whole, but even of the enfranchised minority, has yielded the fruits that tsarism hankered for. At the time of writing this article 432 out of 442 deputies have been returned to the Duma, leaving another 10 to be elected. The results of the elections can, therefore, be considered sufficiently clear. According to a fairly accurate estimate the members elected are 18 Social-Democrats, 13 others of the Left, 46 Cadets, 55 members of groups standing close to them, 92 Octobrists, 21 members of groups belonging to allied trends, 171 members of various Right-wing trends, including 32 members of the Union of the Russian People,[2] and 16 non-party deputies.

Thus, not counting an Insignificant number of non-party deputies, all the others may be divided into four groups: the extreme Left, constituting a little over 7 per cent, the Left (Cadet) Centre 23 per cent, the Right (Octobrist) Centre 25.1 per cent, and the Right 40 per cent; the non-party deputies are a little less than 4 per cent.

None of these groups by itself has an absolute majority. Does this result fully meet the wishes and expectations of those who inspired and drafted the new electoral law? We believe that this question should be answered in the affirmative, and that the new Russian “parliament”, from the point of view of the ruling groups supporting the tsarist   autocracy, is a chambre introuvable[1] in the full sense of that word.

The point is that with us, as in every country that has an autocratic or semi-autocratic regime, there are really two governments: an official one—a Ministry, and another one behind the scenes—the court camarilla. This latter always and everywhere is backed by the most reactionary sections of society, by the feudal—in our country Black-Hundred—nobility, which draws its economic strength from large-scale landownership with the semi-serf economy this involves. Effete, depraved, and degenerate this social group presents a striking example of the most revolting parasitism. To what depths of depravity this degeneration can descend is borne out by the scandalous Moltke v. Harden trial in Berlin, which revealed what a filthy cesspool the influential camarilla at the court of the semi-autocratic German Emperor Wilhelm II really was. It is no secret that with us in Russia similar abominations in corresponding circles are no exception. The mass of the Right in the Third Duma—at least the overwhelming majority if not all of them—will defend the interests of precisely this social canker, these whited sepulchres, bequeathed to us from the dismal past. The preservation of a feudal economy, of aristocratic privileges and the regime of the autocracy and nobility is a matter of life and death to these mastodons and ichthyosauri, for to call them “zubri[3] is to pay them a compliment.

By using their all-powerful influence at court, the mastodons and ichthyosauri usually try their utmost to take full monopoly of possession of the official government as well—the Ministry. Usually a considerable part of the Ministry consists of their henchmen. Very often, however, the majority of the Ministry, as regards its composition, does not fully meet the requirements of the camarilla. The antediluvian predator, the predator of the feudal era, finds a competitor here in the shape of a predator of the epoch of primary accumulation—one just as coarse, greedy, and parasitic, but having a certain cultural veneer and, most important of all, desirous also of seizing a sizable share   of the official pie in the shape of guarantees, subsidies, concessions, protective tariffs, etc. This section of the landowning and industrial bourgeoisie, which is typical of the era of primary accumulation, finds its expression in Octobrism and the trends associated with it. It has many interests in common with the Black Hundreds sans phrases—economic parasitism and privileges, as well as jingoism, are as essential from the Octobrist as from the Black-Hundred point of view.

Thus we have a Black-Hundred-Octobrist majority in the Third Duma reaching the imposing figure of 284 deputies out of 432, that is, 65.7 per cent, or over two-thirds of the total number.

This is a stronghold that enables the government in its agrarian policy to help the ruined landlords to get rid of their lands by profitably fleecing the land-poor peasants, to turn labour legislation into an instrument for the gross exploitation of the proletariat by capital, and to ensure that financial policy keeps the main burden of taxation on the shoulders of the masses. It is a stronghold of protectionism and militarism. No one can deny the counter-revolutionary nature of the Octobrist-Black-Hundred majority.

But the main point is that this is not the only majority in the Third Duma. There is another majority.

The Black Hundreds are a dependable ally of the Octobrists, just as the court camarilla is an ally of the Ministry in defending tsarism. But just as the court camarilla displays an inherent urge not so much towards an alliance with the Ministry as towards dominating it, so do the Black Hundreds yearn for a dictatorship over the Octobrists, try to boss them and keep them under.

The interests of capitalism, grossly predatory and parasitic as it is, cannot be reconciled with the undivided sway of feudal landownership. Both of these kindred social groups are trying to seize the lion’s share of the pie, and that accounts for their inevitable differences on questions of local self-government and the central organisation of state power. The Black Hundreds in the Zemstvos and municipal councils want to keep things as they are, but in the centre what they want is “down with the accursed constitution”. The Octobrists want to increase their influence both in the   Zemstvos and municipal councils, but in the centre there has to be a “constitution”, even if a docktailed one that is fictitious as far as the masses are concerned.

Not for nothing does Russkoye Znamya[4] revile the Octobrists, while Golos Moskvy,[5] in turn, finds that there are more members of the Right in the Third Duma than are needed.

Thus, the objective course of events compels the Octobrists to seek allies in this respect. They could have found them long ago in the Left (Cadet) Centre, which has long been declaring its unhypocritical devotion to the constitution, but the trouble is that the young Russian bourgeoisie of the period of capitalist accumulation now represent ed by the Cadets has preserved from the past some very inconvenient friends and certain unpleasant traditions. It was found, however, that traditions in the political sphere could easily be dispensed with: the Cadets had declared themselves monarchists long ago, even before the First Duma; they had tacitly refused to form a responsible ministry in the Second Duma; and Cadet schemes for various “freedoms” are hedged in with so many stumbling-blocks, barbed wire entanglements, and pitfalls that there is every hope of further progress in this respect. The Cadets’ attitude towards uprisings and strikes had always been one of reproach—at first in a mild, then in a melancholy way; after December 1905 the reproach became half disdain, and after the dissolution of the First Duma flat rejection and condemnation. Diplomacy, deals, bargaining with the powers that be—that is the basis of Cadet tactics. As to inconvenient friends, they have long been called simply “neighbours” and recently have been publicly declared to be enemies

An agreement, then, is possible, and so we have another majority, a counter-revolutionary one again—the Octobrist-Cadet majority. To be. sure, it is somewhat less than half the number of deputies elected so far—214 out of 432— but, first, some if not all of the non-party deputies will undoubtedly join it, and, secondly, there is every reason to believe that it will increase during the further elections, since the towns and most of the gubernia electoral conferences in which elections have not yet taken place will return   an overwhelming majority of either Octobrists or Cadets.

The government considers itself master of the situation. The liberal bourgeoisie apparently takes this to be a fact. In these circumstances the deal is hound, more than ever before, to hear the stamp of a most disgusting and treacherous compromise, to be more exact—the surrender of all liberal positions that have the slightest democratic tinge. Obviously, no local governing or central legislative bodies can be at all democratically constituted by means of such a deal without a new mass movement. An. Octobrist-Cadet majority is not able to give us that. And can we expect any at all tolerable solution of the agrarian question or any alleviation of the workers’ situation from a Black-Hundred Octobrist majority, from the savage landlords in league with the capitalist robbers? The only answer to that question can be a hitter laugh.

The position is clear: our “chambre introuvable” is incapable of accomplishing the objective tasks of the revolution even in the most distorted form. It cannot even partly heal the gaping wounds inflicted upon Russia by the old regime— it can only cover up those wounds with wretched, sour, fictitious reforms.

The election results only confirm our firm belief that Russia cannot emerge from her present crisis in a peaceful way.

Under these conditions the immediate tasks confronting Social-Democrats at the present time are quite clear. Making the triumph of socialism its ultimate aim, being convinced that political freedom is necessary to achieve that aim, and bearing in mind the circumstance that this freedom at the present time cannot be achieved in a peaceful way, without open mass actions, Social-Democracy is obliged now, as before, to put democratic and revolutionary tasks on the immediate order of the day, without for a moment, of coarse, abandoning either propaganda of socialism or defence of proletarian class interests in the narrow sense of the word. Representing as it does the most advanced, most revolutionary class in modern society— the proletariat, which in the Russian revolution has proved by deeds its fitness for the role of leader in the mass struggle—   Social-Democracy is obliged to do everything it possibly can to retain that role for the proletariat in the approaching new phase of the revolutionary struggle, a phase characterised more than ever before by a preponderance of political consciousness over spontaneity. To achieve that end Social-Democracy must strive with all its might for hegemony over the democratic masses and for developing revolutionary energy among them.

Such a striving brings the party of the proletariat into sharp conflict with the other class political organisations, for whom, by virtue of the group interests which they represent, a democratic revolution is hateful and dangerous not only for its own sake but especially in view of the hegemony of the proletariat in it, a hegemony fraught with the danger of socialism.

It is perfectly clear and beyond doubt that both the Duma majorities—the Black-Hundred-Octobrist and the Octobrist-Cadet—with the alternate backing of which the Stolypin government hopes to balance itself, that both these majorities, each in its own way—on different issues— will be counter-revolutionary. There can be no question of any struggle with the Ministry on the part of one or the other of these majorities or even of their separate elements— a struggle in any way systematic or regular. Only separate temporary conflicts are possible. Such conflicts are possible first of all between the Black-Hundred elements of the first-named majority and the government. It should not be forgotten, however, that these conflicts cannot be deep-seated, and the government, without abandoning its counter-revolutionary basis, can quite comfortably and easily emerge the victor in these conflicts through the backing of the second majority. With the best will in the world, revolutionary Social-Democracy and, together with it, all the other revolutionary-minded elements of the Third Duma cannot use these conflicts in the interests of the revolution other than for purely propaganda purposes; there can. be no question whatever of “supporting” any of the conflicting sides, because such support, in itself, would be a counter-revolutionary act.

Somewhat greater and better use, perhaps, could be made of possible conflicts between various elements of the   second majority—between the Cadets, on the one hand, and the Octobrists and the government, on the other. But here, too, the position is such that, owing to objective conditions no less than to subjective moods and intentions, these conflicts will be both superficial and transient, merely a means by which political hucksters will find it easier to make deals on terms outwardly more decorous but in essence opposed to the interests of democracy. Consequently, while not refraining from utilising even such superficial and in frequent conflicts, Social-Democracy must wage a stubborn struggle for democratic and revolutionary aims not only against the government, the Black Hundreds, and the Octobrists, but also against the Cadets.

These are the principal aims which Social-Democracy must set itself in the Third Duma. Obviously, these aims are the same as those that confronted the party of the proletariat in the Second Duma. They have been quite clearly formulated in the first paragraph of the resolution of the London Congress on the State Duma. This paragraph reads:

The immediate political aims of Social-Democracy in the Duma are: (a) to explain to the people the utter uselessness of the Duma as a means of achieving the demands of the proletariat and the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie, especially the peasantry; (b) to explain to the people the impossibility of achieving political freedom by parliamentary means as long as real power remains in the hands of the tsarist government, and to explain the inevitability of an open struggle of the masses against the armed forces of absolutism, a struggle aimed at securing complete victory, namely, the assumption of power by the masses and the convocation of a constituent assembly on the basis of universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot.”

This resolution, particularly in its concluding words, formulates also the very important special task of the Social-Democrats in the Third Duma, a task which the Social-Democratic deputies must fulfil in order to expose the lull infamy of the crime committed on June 3. They must expose this crime, of course, not from the liberal stand point of a formal breach of the constitution, but as a gross and brazen violation of the interests of the broad masses of the people, as a shameless and outrageous falsification   of popular representation. hence the need for explaining to the broad masses the utter failure of the Third Duma to meet the interests and demands, of the people, and consequently for wide and vigorous propaganda of the idea of a constituent assembly with full power based on universal, direct, and equal suffrage by secret ballot.

The London resolution also defines very clearly the nature of Social-Democratic activities in the State Duma in the following terms: “The critical, propagandist, agitational, and organisational role of the Social-Democratic group in the Duma should be brought to the fore”; “the general character of the Duma struggle should be subordinated to the entire struggle of the proletariat outside the Duma, it being particularly important in this connection to make use of mass economic struggle and to serve the interests of that struggle.” It is perfectly obvious what a close, inseparable connection there is between such Duma activities and the aims, which, as stated above, Social-Democracy should set itself in the Duma at the present moment. Peaceful legislative work by the Social-Democrats in the Third Duma under conditions which make mass movements highly probable would not only be inadvisable, would not only be absurd quixotry, but a downright betrayal of proletarian interests. It is bound to lead Social-Democracy to “a whittling down of its slogans, which can only discredit it in the eyes of the masses and divorce it from the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat”. The spokes men of the proletariat in the Duma could commit no greater crime than this.

The critical activity of Social-Democracy should be expanded to the full and pointed as sharply as possible, all the more as there will be an abundance of material for this in the Third Duma. The Social-Democrats in the Duma must completely expose the class nature of both the government’s and the liberals’ measures and proposals that will be passed through the Duma. Moreover, in full keeping with the Congress resolution, particular attention must be given to those measures and proposals which affect the economic interests of the broad masses; this applies to the labour and agrarian questions, the budget, etc. On all these issues Social-Democracy must counter the governmental   and liberal standpoints with its own socialist and democratic demands; these issues are the most sensitive nerve of public life and at the same time the most sensitive spot of the government and of those social groups upon which the two Duma majorities rest.

The Social-Democrats in the Duma will carry out all these agitational, propaganda, and organisational tasks not only by their speeches from the Duma rostrum but also by introducing Bills and making interpellations to the government. There is one important difficulty here, however: to introduce a Bill or to make an interpellation the signatures of no less than thirty deputies are required.

The Third Duma does not and will not have thirty Social-Democrats. That is indubitable. Hence the Social-Democrats alone, without the assistance of other groups, can neither introduce a Bill nor make interpellations. Undoubtedly, this makes matters difficult and complicated.

We have in mind, of course, Bills and questions of a consistently democratic character. Can Social-Democracy in this respect count on assistance from the Constitutional-Democratic Party? Certainly not. Can the Cadets, who are now fully prepared for undisguised compromise on terms which leave nothing of their programmatic demands, skimpy though they are and reduced to a bare minimum by various reservations and exceptions—can the Cadets be expected to annoy the government by democratic interpellations? We all remember that already in the Second Duma the speeches of the Cadet orators in making interpellations became very colourless and often turned into infantile prattle or polite and even deferential inquiries made with a slight bow. And now, when the Duma’s “effectiveness” in the matter of weaving strong and reliable nets for the people, nets that would enmesh them like chains, has become the talk of the town, Their Excellencies, the ministers, can sleep in peace: they will seldom be bothered by the Cadets—after all, they have to legislate!—and even if they are bothered, it will be with due observance of all the rules of politeness. Not for nothing did Milyukov at his election meetings promise to “guard the flame”. And is Milyukov the only one? Does not Dan’s unconditional rejection of the “down-with-the-Duma” slogan signify the   same guarding of the flame? And is not Plekhanov advising Social-Democracy to follow the same policy of “politeness” when he talks about “supporting the liberal bourgeoisie”, whose “struggle” amounts to nothing more than curtsies and low bows?

There can be no question of the Cadets seconding the legislative proposals of the Social-Democrats, for these Bills will have a pronounced propaganda character, will express to the full consistently democratic demands, and that, of course, will cause as much irritation among the Cadets as among the Octobrists and even the Black Hundreds.

And so the Cadets will have to be left out of the account in this respect too. In the matter of making interpellations and presenting Bills the Social-Democrats can count only on the support of groups to the left of the Cadets. Apparently, together with the Social-Democrats, they will number up to thirty deputies, thus providing the full technical possibility of displaying initiative in this direction. It is not, of course, a question of any bloc, but only of those “joint actions”, which, in the words of the London Congress resolution, “must exclude any possibility of deviations from the Social-Democratic programme and tactics and serve only the purpose of a general onslaught both against reaction and the treacherous tactics of the liberal bourgeoisie”.


[1] Second to none, as Louis XVIII in 1815 called the reactionary French Chamber of Deputies. —Lenin

[2] Union of the Russian People—an extremely reactionary Black-Hundred organisation of monarchists, founded in St. Petersburg in October 1905 to fight the revolutionary movement. It was a union of reactionary landlords, big houseowners, merchants, police officials, clergymen, middle-class townspeople, kulaks, and declassed and criminal elements. The Union was headed by V.A. Bobrinsky, A.I. Dubrovin, P.A. Krushevan, N.Y. Markov 2nd, V.M. Purishkevich, and others. Its press organs were the newspapers Russkoye Znamya (Russian Banner), Obyedineniye (Unity), and Groza (Storm). The Union had branches in many towns.

It upheld the tsarist autocracy, semi-feudal landlordism, and the privileges of the nobles. It adopted as its programme slogan the old monarchist and nationalist motto of the days of serfdom— “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationhood”. The Union’s principal method of struggle against the revolution was pogroms and murder. With the aid and connivance of the police, its members openly and with impunity beat up and murdered revolutionary workers and democratically-minded intellectuals, broke up and shot down meetings, organised anti-Jewish pogroms, and hounded non-Russian nationalities.

After the dissolution of the Second Duma the Union divided into two organisations: the League of Michael the Archangel, headed by Purishkevich, which stood for the Third Duma being used for counter-revolutionary purposes, and the Union of the Russian People proper, headed by Dubrovin, which continued the tactics of open terrorism. Both these reactionary organisations were abolished during the bourgeois-democratic February revolution (1917). After the October Socialist Revolution the former members of these organisations took an active part in counter-revolutionary insurrections, and plots, against the Soviet government.

[3] Zubri (literally “aurochs”) applied in Russian political literature to the extreme Right-wing representatives of reactionary landlordism (die-hards).

[4] Russkoye Znamya (Russian Banner)—a Black-Hundred newspaper, organ of the Union of the Russian People, published in St. Petersburg from November 1905 to 1917.

[5] Golos Moskvy (Voice of Moscow)—a Moscow daily newspaper organ of the Octobrist Party, published from December 1906 to June 1915.

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