V. I.   Lenin

Conference of the Extended Editorial Board of Proletary

June 8–17 (21–80), 1909


Speech and Draft Resolution on the Tasks of the Bolsheviks in Relation to Duma Activity

We are coming to the end of the debate, and I don’t think there is any need to fix it in a special resolution, because we need to be careful with that. The thing was after all to thrash the matter out among ourselves. In reply to Vlasov[1] on the use of legal opportunities, I will read a draft resolution:

The Bolshevik Centre resolves: in order in practice to achieve—and to achieve in a revolutionary Social-Democratic spirit and direction—the objects now ’recognised by all Bolsheviks of making use of all ’legal opportunities’, all legal and semi-legal organisations of the working class in general and the Duma rostrum in particular, the Bolshevik section must definitely and clearly put before itself the aim of securing at any cost the training up of a body of experienced Bolsheviks, specialised in their job and firmly established in their particular legal post (trade unions; clubs; Duma committees, etc., etc.)."

Vlasov stated that this refers to the leaders. This is not the case. The trouble is that in our Bolshevik section the view prevails that such specialists are not required. Our forces are few: they must be utilised and allotted to the legal functions, and made responsible for carrying out these functions in the name of the section. If we speak of setting up Party cells, we must know how to do it. I have drafted a resolution on agitation by leaflets:

Having discussed the question of the Bolsheviks’ tasks in relation to Duma activity, the Bolshevik Centre resolves to draw the attention of all local organisations to the importance   of agitation by leaflets (in addition to the local and regional press) which spread among the masses information about the Duma work of the Social-Democrats and give direction to this work. Subjects for such leaflets might be indications of questions to be highlighted from the Duma rostrum, the summing up of the Social-Democrats’ activity in the Duma and the grouping of the different parties, out lines of propagandist speeches on these questions, analysis of the political significance of particularly important Social-Democratic speeches in the Duma, pointing out omissions or inaccuracies in Social-Democratic Duma speeches, and extracts from these speeches giving practical conclusions important for propaganda and agitation, etc., etc."

And I have also roughed-out in the form of a resolution the points on the question of our attitude to Duma activity which were discussed at the private meeting[2]:

II. The difference between the revolutionary Social- Democratic use of the Duma and the reformist (or more broadly, opportunist) use can be described by the following indications, which do not pretend to be complete.

From the standpoint of the external relations, so to speak, of the Duma Social-Democratic group, the difference between the revolutionary Social-Democratic use of the Duma and opportunist use consists in the following: the necessity to combat the tendency on the part of deputies and very often of the bourgeois intellectuals surrounding them—a tendency natural in all bourgeois society (and in Russia during a period of reaction especially)—to make parliamentary activity the basic, most important thing of all, an end in itself. In particular it is essential to make every effort that the group should carry on its work as one of the functions subordinated to the interests of the working-class movement as a whole, and also that the group should be in constant con tact with the Party, not drawing apart from it but implementing Party views, the directives of Party congresses and the central institutions of the Party.

From the standpoint of the internal content of the group’s activity, it is essential to bear the following in mind. The aim of the activity of the parliamentary Social-Democratic group differs in principle from that of all other political parties. The aim of the proletarian party is not to do   deals or haggle with the powers that be, not to engage in the hopeless patching-up of the regime of the feudalist-bourgeois dictatorship of counter-revolution, but to develop in every way the class-consciousness, the socialist clarity of thought, the revolutionary determination and all-round organisation of the mass of the workers. Every step in the activity of the Duma group must serve this fundamental aim. Therefore more attention must be paid to promoting the aims of socialist revolution from the Duma rostrum. Efforts must be made to ensure that speeches should more often be heard from the Duma rostrum propagandising the fundamental conceptions and aims of socialism, namely, of scientific socialism. Then, in the conditions of continuing bourgeois-democratic revolution, it is extremely important that the Duma group should systematically combat the torrent of counter-revolutionary attacks on the ’liberation movement’, and the prevalent tendency (both on the part of the outright reactionaries and of the liberals, especially the Cadets) to condemn the revolution and discredit it, its aims, its methods, etc. The Social-Democratic group in the Duma must bear high the banner of the revolution, the banner of the advanced class, leader of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia.

Furthermore it i s essential to point out . a task of the Duma Social-Democratic group, which is exceptionally important at the present time, namely, that of participating energetically in all discussions of labour legislation. The group must utilise the rich parliamentary experience of the West-European Social-Democrats, taking. special care to avoid the opportunist distortion of this aspect of its activity. The group must not whittle down its slogans and the demands of our Party’s minimum programme, but draft and introduce its Social-Democratic Bills (and also amendments to Bills of the government and the other parties), in order to unmask to the masses the hypocrisy and falseness of social-reformism, in order to draw the masses into independent economic and political mass struggle, which alone can bring real gains to the workers or transform half-hearted and hypocritical ’reforms’ under the existing system into strong-points for an advancing working-class movement towards the complete emancipation of the proletariat.

The Duma Social-Democratic group and the whole Social-Democratic Party should take the same stand towards reformism within Social-Democracy, which is the latest product of opportunist vacillation.

Finally, revolutionary Social-Democratic use of the Duma should differ from opportunist use in that the Social-Democratic group and the Party are bound to explain to the masses in every possible way the class character of all bourgeois political parties, not confining themselves to attacks on the government and outright reactionaries, but exposing both the counter-revolutionary, nature of liberalism and the waverings of petty-bourgeois peasant democracy.”

Written June 12–13 (25–26), 1909
First published in 1934 in the book Minutes of the Conference of the Extended Editorial Board of “Proletary”
Text of the speech published according to the book; text of the draft resolution according to the manuscript



[1] Vlasov—A. I. Rykov.

[2] The private meeting—a meeting of Leninist Bolsheviks called by Lenin on the eve of the conference of the extended editorial board of Proletary. Lenin gave the meeting full information concerning the state of affairs in the Bolshevik section and the struggle against the otzovists, the ultimatumists and the god-builders. The theses contained in Lenin’s report formed the basis for the resolutions adopted by the conference of the extended editorial board.

  Speech on the Question of the Tasks of the Bolsheviks in the Party, June 11 (24) | Resolutions of the Conference of the Extended Editorial Board of Proletary  

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