V. I. Lenin

The Election in St. Petersburg{1}

A Comment

Published: Proletary, No. 47-48, September 5 (18), 1909. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1974], Moscow, Volume 16, pages 24-28.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2004 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
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The election in St. Petersburg has been fixed for September 21. The conditions which the workers’ party has to con tend with in this election are extraordinarily difficult. But it is an event of the highest importance and all Social-Democrats must exert every effort in the forthcoming election campaign, which in some-respects has already begun.

The election is taking place in an atmosphere of the most rabid reaction, with the counter-revolutionary fury of the tsarist government gang raging in full force. All the more important then is it that this reaction should he opposed by the nomination put forward by the Social-Democratic Party, the only party which even from the platform of the Black-Hundred Third Duma has succeeded in raising its voice, declaring its unshakable socialist convictions, reiterating the slogans of the glorious revolutionary struggle, and unfurling the republican banner in the face of the Octobrist-Black-Hundred{2} heroes of counter-revolution and the liberal (Cadet){3} ideologists and defenders of counter-revolution.

The election is taking place in conditions which entirely preclude the participation of the broad mass of the working class: the workers are excluded from the voters’ lists, the ranks of the voters have been decimated by the triumphant aristocratic gang who carried out the coup d’état of June 3, 1907.{4} All the more important is it that there should come out before this audience, least capable of sympathising in general with the ideas of Social-Democracy, a party which combines the fight for socialism with the fight for a consistent and drastic democratic revolution in a bourgeois country. However restricted, however hampered the work   of the Social-Democratic Party has been of late among the working masses, this work has been carried on without a break. Hundreds of workers’ groups and circles are upholding the traditions of the Social-Democratic Party, continuing its cause, training new proletarian fighters. Through their deputies, their agitators and their delegates, working-class Social-Democrats will now come forward before the mass of petty-bourgeois voters and remind them of the aims of real democracy which have been forgotten by the bourgeois-democratic parties and groups.

The election is taking place in a situation where the Social-Democratic Party and all working-class organisations whatsoever have been totally outlawed, where it is utterly impossible to hold meetings of workers, where the workers’ press is totally banned, where the “opposition” is (through police measures) entirely monopolised by the Cadet Party, which has prostituted itself by a series of unprecedented acts of flunkeyism in the Black Duma and has helped the autocracy to raise money in Europe to spend on prisons and gallows, which has helped to stage the comedy of a constitutional autocracy for the benefit of the European capitalists. All the more important is it that this Cadet monopoly, fenced around by a forest of gallows, and “earned” by the unlimited grovelling of the liberals to tsarism, should be broken, broken at all costs, in full view of the masses who see the election, hear about the election, and who are following the chances of the candidates and the results of the election. If the most important thing for the bourgeois politicians in all countries, from the Russian Cadets to the “free-thinkers” of Germany or the bourgeois-democratic “radicals” in France, is to achieve an immediate success, to gain a parliamentary seat, the most important thing for a socialist party is propaganda and agitation among the masses, the most important thing is to advocate the ideas of socialism and of a consistent, self-denying struggle for complete democracy. And the success of this propaganda is very far from being measured solely by the number of votes, hand-picked under the law of June 3, which was passed by the gentlemen of the nobility.

Look at our Cadet press: with what amazing effrontery it uses its monopoly, earned by the accommodatingness of Milyukov and protected by Stolypin.{5} In its leading article   of August 1 Rech{6} says: “No one has any doubts as to the outcome of the St. Petersburg election.... If the nomination of Kutler,{7} who was one of the most authoritative deputies in the Second Duma, is fixed, the election victory will be even more imposing.” To be sure it will! What could be more “imposing” than a victory over the “Lefts” who have been “disqualified” by the Black-Hundred coup d’état? What could be more imposing than a victory over socialism which has to propagate its old ideals in the illegal press and illegal labour organisations, a victory of “democrats” whose democracy fits in easily with the Stolypin Constitution? Who can there be more “authoritative” in the eyes of the petty bourgeois, the philistine, in the eyes of the cowed citizen of Russia, than ex-minister Mr. Kutler? For the party of “people’s freedom” the prestige of a deputy in the Duma is measured by his prestige in the eyes of Romanov, Stolypin and Co.

“We presume,” continues Rech majestically, “that on this occasion there will be no purposeless splitting of votes between the progressive candidates as well. That is the sense of a statement made by V. V. Vodovozov, one of the representatives of the ‘Left bloc’.”

This little tirade reflects the whole nature of our Cadets as a drop of water reflects the sun. Splitting the votes is “to no purpose” (the Cadets no longer say it is dangerous in face of the Black Hundreds, because the stupid liberal fable of the Black-Hundred danger has been convincingly refuted by the revolutionary Social-Democrats and by events), why “to no purpose”, gentlemen? Because our man will not get in, that is the first and last argument of the Cadets. Indeed, this is an Octobrist argument, dear opponents of Octobrism; this is the argument of submission to the law of June 3,. the very same loving submission and joyful obedience for which you reproach the Octobrists! Your essential nature is such that prior to an election, when you come before the voters, before the crowd, you accuse the Octobrists of being incapable of carrying out a policy based on principle, of uttering opportunist phrases about “purposelessness”, but at elections, before the authorities, before the tsar and Stolypin, you pursue the very same policy as the Octobrists. Since it is “purposeless” to vote against the budget—we shall vote for the budget. Since it is “purposeless” to uphold the ideals of   the revolution and freedom—we shall vilify them, we shall publish Vekhi,{8} we shall throw mud at the revolution, we shall hire as many renegades as possible—Izgoyevs, Galiches, Struves and so forth—to demonstrate our renunciation of the revolution. Since it is “purposeless” to fight against the autocracy receiving support from foreign capital—we shall help the autocracy to negotiate loans, we shall send Milyukov as a footman on the step of the royal coach of Nicholas the Bloody.

But if the phrase about an ideological struggle at the elections being “purposeless” is a true indication of the “ideological” nature of the Cadets, the next phrase is a model of downright election trickery. Exercising the monopoly of “His Majesty’s Opposition”,{9} Rech slandered, firstly, the Social-Democrats, who have never anywhere declared against splitting votes (and who—this is very important—won over the Trudoviks to their leadership in the famous Left bloc, won them over by the firm determination to put up a Social-Democratic candidate at all costs), and, secondly, the Trudovik{10} Vodovozov.

Apart from the leading article, there is an item in the issue of August 1 imputing to Vodovozov a statement that the electors have already declared for the Cadets, and that the Trudoviks must either vote for the Cadets or abstain. Only in its issue of August 8 does the organ of the party of “people’s freedom” find an odd corner (underneath the “Country Life” column) for a letter from Mr. Vodovozov, who protests that he “never said” the words ascribed to him. Rech is not at all abashed by this and goes on to argue the point with Vodovozov. The deed is done, the reader has been deceived, the monopoly of the press permitted by the Stolypins has been utilised and that is all that matters. Finally in the issue of August 9 there is a couple of lines on the Social-Democratic candidate Sokolov and on the fact that many Trudoviks propose to vote for him. All that was reported in the leading article of August 1 concerning the Lefts proves to have been a canard....

The difficulties of the task confronting the Social-Democrats in St. Petersburg will not dismay them but will make them redouble their efforts. Not only all Party organisations, every workers’ circle, every group of Social-Democratic   sympathisers in any section of the community—even if this group consists of two or three persons and is cut off from active political work, In the way that only Russian citizens can be cut off from politics in the epoch of the Stolypin Constitution —everyone can and must take part in the Social- Democratic election campaign. Some can draw up and distribute the election manifestoes of the Social-Democrats; others can help to circulate the Duma speeches of the Social-Democrats; some can organise a canvass of the electors in order to propagate Social-Democratic ideas and explain the aims of the Social-Democrats in the election campaign; others will speak at meetings of voters or at private meetings; still others can cull a bouquet of extracts from Cadet literature and Cadet speeches that will cure all honest democrats of any desire to vote for the Cadets; others.., but it is not for us in a newspaper published abroad to point out ways and means of agitation, ways &nd means will be found locally, in St. Petersburg, a hundred times richer, livelier and more varied. The members of the Social-Democratic group in the Duma can, by virtue of their position, render particularly valuable services to the election campaign in St. Petersburg; here the Social-Democratic deputies have a particularly useful and particularly grateful part to play. No administrative prohibitions, no police traps, no confiscations of Social-Democratic literature, no arrests of Social-Democratic agitators can prevent the workers’ party from doing its duty, namely, to make full use of the election campaign to spread among the masses the whole, undiluted programme of the socialist proletariat, the vanguard in the Russian democratic, revolution.

P. S. This article had been sent to press when we read in Rech. of August 13 the following extremely important news item: “On August 11 the Trudoviks held their first meeting devoted to the Duma election.... It was unanimously decided to support the candidature of the Social-Democrat Sokolov, and it was resolved not to make this support depend on any political obligations.” Needless to say, the Social-Democrats could not accept support on any other conditions.


{1} September 21 (October 4), 1909, was the date fixed for the by-election to the Third Duma to replace the St. Petersburg deputy, the Cadet A. M. Kolyubakin, who had been expelled from the Duma.

{2} The Party of Octobrists (Union of October Seventeenth) was found ed in Russia after the issue of the tsar’s Manifesto of October 17, 1905. It was a counter-revolutionary party which represented and defended the interests of the big bourgeoisie and landlords, whose enterprises were on capitalist lines. It was headed by the well known industrialist and Moscow house-owner, A. I. Guchkov, and the big landlord M. V. Rodzyanko. The Octobrists supported the foreign and domestic policy of the tsarist government.

Black Hundreds—reactionary, monarchist gangs set up by the tsarist police to combat the revolutionary movement. They murdered revolutionaries, assaulted progressive intellectuals, and organised anti-Jewish pogroms.

{3} Cadets—members of the Constitutional-Democratic Party, the chief party of the Russian liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie. The Cadet Party was founded in October 1905, its membership including representatives of the bourgeoisie, Zemstvo functionaries from among the landlords and bourgeois intellectuals. Prominent leaders of the Cadets included P. N. Milyukov, S. A. Muromtsev, V. A. Maklakov, A. I. Shingaryov, P. B. Struve, F. I. Rodichev. In order to deceive the working people the Cadets falsely called themselves the party of “people’s freedom”, but in reality they never went beyond the demand for a constitutional monarchy. They considered their main task to be the fight against the revolutionary movement and they tried to persuade the tsar and the feudal land lards to share power with them. During the First World War the Cadets actively supported the tsarist government’s foreign policy of conquest. During the bourgeois-democratic revolution of February 1917 they tried to save the monarchy. The Cadets in the bourgeois Provisional Government pursued a counter-revolutionary policy favourable to the U.S., British and French imperialists. After the victory- of the Great October Socialist Revolution the. Cadets became Irreconcilable enemies of Soviet power and participated, in all the armed counter-revolutionary actions and campaigns of the interventionists. When the interventionists and whiteguards were defeated, the Cadets fled abroad, where they continued their anti-Soviet, counter-revolutionary activity.

{4} The coup d’état of June 3, 1901 was carried out by the tsarist government, which dissolved the Second Duma and published a new electoral law that reduced severalfold the already small representation of workers and peasants in the Duma. The law deprived a large part of the population of Asiatic Russia of electoral rights and reduced by half the representation of the people of Poland and the Caucasus. Black Hundreds and Octobrists predominated in the Third Duma, which was elected on the basis of this law, and opened in November 1907.

{5} Milyukov, P. N.—leader of the Cadet Party.

Stolypin, P. A.—a reactionary statesman of tsarist Russia and a big landlord, Chairman of the Council of Ministers and the Minister of the Interior from 1906 to 1911. He headed the regime of savage political reaction after the suppression of the 1905-07 Revolution and organised bloody acts of repression against the revolutionary workers and peasants.

{6} Rech (Speech) —a daily newspaper, the central organ of the Cadet Party, which was published in St. Petersburg from February 1906. It was closed down by the Revolutionary Military Committee of the Petrograd Soviet on October 26 (November 8), 1917.

{7} Kutler, N. N.—a prominent leader of the Cadet Party.

{8} Vekhi—a Cadet collection of articles by N. Berdayev, S. Bulgakov, P. Struve, M. Herschensohn and other representatives of the counter-revolutionary liberal bourgeoisie, published in Moscow in the spring of 1909. In articles on the Russian intelligentsia these writers tried to discredit the revolutionary-democratic traditions of the finest representatives of the Russian people, including V. G. Belinsky and N. G. Chernyshevsky, vilified the revolutionary movement of 1905, and thanked the tsarist government for having, “with its bayonets and jails”, saved the bourgeoisie from “the fury of the people”. The writers called upon the intelligentsia to serve the autocracy. Lenin compared the programme of Vekhi, as regards both philosophy and publicist matters, to that of the Black-Hundred newspaper Moskovskiye Vedomosti, and he called the symposium an “encyclopaedia of liberal renegacy”, nothing but a veritable torrent of reactionary mud poured on the head of democracy (see p. 123–31 of this volume).

{9} The expression “His Majesty’s Opposition” was used by the leader of the Cadet Party, P. Milyukov. In a speech at a luncheon given by the Lord Mayor of London on June 19 (July 2), 1909, Milyukov declared: “So long as there is in Russia a legislative chamber which controls the budget, the Russian opposition will remain the opposition of His Majesty and not to His Majesty.” (Rech No. 167, June 21 [July 4], 1909).

{10} Trudoviks, Trudovik group—the group of petty-bourgeois democrats in the State Dumas, consisting of peasants and intellectuals of a   Narodnik persuasion. The Trudovik group was formed in April 1906 from peasant deputies in the First Duma.

The Trudoviks put forward demands for the removal of all social-estate and national restrictions, the democratisation of Zemstvo and urban self-government, and the establishment of universal suffrage for elections to the Duma. The agrarian programme of the Trudoviks was based on Narodnik principles of equalitarian use of the land: the formation of a national fund from state, crown and church lands, and also from privately owned lands if the size of the holding exceeded the established labour norm. It was envisaged that there would be compensation for the privately owned land to be nationalised. Lenin pointed out that the typical Trudovik was a peasant who was “not averse to a compromise with the monarchy, to settling down quietly on his own plot of land under the bourgeois system; but at the present time his main efforts are concentrated on the fight against the landlords for land, on the fight against the feudal state and for democracy” (see present edition, Vol. 11, p. 229).

In the Duma the Trudoviks wavered between the Cadets and the Social-Democrats. These waverings were due to the class nature of the small peasant farmers. Nevertheless, owing to the fact that the Trudoviks represented the mass of the peasants, the Bolsheviks in the Duma pursued a policy of concluding agreements with them on particular questions for a joint struggle against the tsarist autocracy and the Cadets. In 4917, the Trudovik group merged with the Popular Socialist Party and actively supported the bourgeois Provisional Government. After the October Socialist Revolution the Trudoviks sided with the bourgeois counter-revolution.

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