V. I.   Lenin

The Social-Democratic Group in the Second Duma[1]

An Account of the Whole Affair

Written: Written after November 6 (19), 1911
Published: First printed in Russian in 1940, in Proletarskaya Revolutsia, No. 4. Printed in the German, French, and English languages in December 1911 in Bulletin périodique du Bureau socialisie international, No. 8. Signed: N. Lenin. Published according to the Bulletin text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1974], Moscow, Volume 17, pages 325-330.
Translated: Dora Cox
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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Four years have passed since all the members of the Social-Democratic group in the Second Duma, victims of an infamous plot by our government, were put on trial and sent to penal servitude like, the worst of criminals. The Russian proletariat fully understood that the charges against its representatives were based on a forgery, but this was the period of unbridled reaction and in addition, sentence was passed behind closed doors so that sufficient evidence of the crime committed by tsarism was not available. Only quite recently the convincing facts contained in the confession of Brodsky, an agent of the secret political police, have thrown full light on the revolting intrigues of our authorities.

This is what actually happened.

Despite the very limited franchise, the Russian proletariat returned 55 Social-Democrats to the Second Duma.

This Social-Democratic group was not only numerically large, but outstandingly sound ideologically. It bore the hallmark of the revolution from which it sprang. Its pronouncements, in which there could still be heard the echoes of the great struggle that had involved the whole country, levelled deep and well-founded criticism, not only at the bills submitted to the Duma, but also at the whole tsarist and capitalist system of government in general.

Armed with the invincible weapon of contemporary socialism this Social-Democratic group was, of all the Left   groups, the most revolutionary, the most consistent? and the most deeply imbued with class-consciousness. It drew the others in its wake and set its revolutionary seal on the Duma. Our rulers considered the group to be the last strong hold of the revolution, its last symbol, the living proof of the powerful influence of Social-Democracy on the proletarian masses and, consequently, a constant threat to reaction, the last obstacle to its triumphant march. Therefore, the government considered it essential not only to rid itself of this too revolutionary Duma, but also to restrict the electoral rights of the proletariat and of the democratically-inclined peasantry to the minimum, thus preventing any possibility of the election of a similar Duma in the future. The best method for the realisation of such a coup d’état was to get rid of the socialist Duma group, to compromise it in the eyes of the country—to cut off the head in order to destroy the body.

However, some pretext had to be found for this,—for in stance, the possibility of accusing the group of some serious political crime. The inventiveness of the police and the secret political police soon found such an excuse. It was decided to compromise the parliamentary socialist group, accusing it of close ties with the Social-Democratic combat organisation and with the Social-Democratic military organisation. With this aim in view, General Gerasimov, the chief of the secret political police, suggested to his agent Brodsky that he enter these organisations. (All these facts are taken from L’Avenir[2] No. 1. [The Future], issued under the editorship of Burtsev in Paris, 50, Boulevard St. Jacques.) Brodsky succeeded in doing so as a rank-and-file member, and later became a secretary. Several members of the military organisation had the idea of sending a delegation of soldiers to the socialist parliamentary group. The secret police decided to use this for its own ends, and Brodsky, having won the confidence of the military organisation, undertook to execute this plan. Several soldiers were elect ed; a list of soldiers’ demands was drawn up and a day was appointed for the delegation to visit the Duma group at its headquarters, without the group even having been warned. As the soldiers were not allowed to go there in army uniform they were obliged to change their clothes. This was   actually carried out at the home of one of the agents of the secret police, where they changed into clothes bought and prepared for them by the secret police. According to this vile plan of Gerasimov’s, Brodsky was to have arrived at the premises of the socialist group at the same time as the soldiers, bringing with him revolutionary documents which would implicate our delegates even more. Further, it was agreed that Brodsky would be arrested together with the others, and then, aided by the secret police who would enable him to effect a sham escape, he would be at liberty. But Brodsky arrived too late, and when he reached the premises of the group with the compromising documents, the search had already commenced, and he was not allowed to enter.

Such was the setting prepared most thoroughly by the secret police which allowed reaction, not only to condemn and send to penal servitude the representatives of the proletariat, but, apart from this, to dissolve the Second Duma and to carry out its coup d’état of June 3 (16), 1907. Actually, on that date the government announced in its manifesto (which, like all tsarist manifestos, astounds one with its shameless hypocrisy) that it was compelled to dissolve the Duma, for, instead of supporting and aiding the government in its desire to re-establish peace in the country, the Duma, on the contrary, had acted against all the proposals and intentions of the government and, incidentally, did not wish to append its signature to repressive measures against the revolutionary elements of the country. Furthermore (and I give the text word for word), “acts hitherto unheard of in the annals of history were committed. The judiciary discovered a plot by a whole section of the State Duma against the state and the power of the tsar. When our government demanded the temporary removal of the 55 members of the Duma accused of the crime until the conclusion of the trial, and the imprisonment of those most guilty, the State Duma did not immediately carry out the lawful demands of the authorities which brooked no delay”.

Incidentally, the proofs of the tsar’s crime were known not only to the government and its closest friends. Our dear Constitutional-Democrats, who never tire of babbling about legality, justice, truth, and so on, who embellish their Party with such a high-sounding title as “party of people’s   freedom”, have for the past four years also known all the vile details of this dirty affair which had been kept so secret. They looked on passively for four long years while our deputies were tried in defiance of all law, while they suffered penal servitude, while some died and others lost their reason, and ... they remained cautiously silent. Yet they could have spoken for they had deputies in the Duma and had many daily newspapers at their disposal. Caught between reaction and revolution—they feared the revolution more. For this reason they flirted with the government and by their silence shielded it for four long years and so became its accomplices in crime. It is only recently (the sitting of the Duma of the 17th October, 1911) that during debates on the secret police, one of them, Deputy Teslenko, at last decided to let the cat out of the bag. Here is part of his speech (word for word according to the Verbatim Report): “When it was proposed that proceedings be taken against 53 members[3] of the Second State Duma, a commission was set up by the Duma. This Commission was given all the documents that were to provide evidence that 53 members of the State Duma had organised a plot to set up a republic in Russia by means of an armed uprising. The Commission of the Second State Duma (I made the report on its behalf) came to the conclusion, a unanimous conclusion, that what was being discussed was not a plot hatched against the state by the Social-Democrats, but a plot hatched by the St. Petersburg department of the secret police against the Second State Duma. When the Commission’s report, based on documents, was ready, on the eve of the day when all these facts were to be made public from this rostrum, the Second State Duma was dissolved and it was not possible to state (from this rostrum) what had been brought to light. When the trial of the accused commenced, these 53 members of the State Duma demanded that it be heard in public, and that the public should be told that it was not they who were the criminals but the St. Petersburg department of the secret police—the doors were closed and the public was never told the truth.”

Such are the facts. For four years our deputies have been languishing in chains in terrible Russian prisons, the severity and savagery of which you are, of course, aware. Many   have already died there. One of the deputies has lost his reason, the health of many others, as a result of unendurable living conditions, has been impaired and they may die any day. The Russian proletariat can no longer calmly look on while its representatives, whose only crime is that they waged an unremitting struggle in its interests, perish in tsarist prisons. It is even more impossible for it to look on calmly, since from the legal point of view Brodsky’s admissions provide complete justification for demanding a fresh trial. A campaign for the release of the deputies has already commenced in Russia.

The workers’ paper Zvezda, appearing in St. Petersburg devoted a considerable part of its issue dated October 29, 1911 to the question. It appeals to the press, to liberal and Left deputies, to associations and trade unions, but mostly to the proletariat. “There is not, and cannot be,” exclaims the paper, “calmness and peace of mind while every hour and every minute all can hear the clanging of the chains fettering those who have been immured, deprived of freedom and every political and civil right only because they had the courage to carry out before the whole country their duty as men and citizens. The public conscience cannot and should not remain calm after the exposure of the horrifying truth. No matter what the difficulties may be they must be over come and a retrial of the deputies to the Second State Duma demanded! But in the first instance the proletariat must make its powerful voice heard, for it was its representatives who were falsely tried, and who at the present moment languish in penal servitude.”

In commencing this struggle, the Russian proletariat appeals to socialists of all countries to give it support, and together with it to proclaim loudly to the whole world their indignation at the savagery and infamy of our present ruling autocracy which, screening itself with a mask of pitiful hypocrisy, surpasses even the barbarism and uncivilised behaviour of the Asiatic governments.

In France, Comrade Charles Dumas has already started the campaign and in an article printed in the newspaper L’Avenir has called for energetic support to be given to the Russian proletariat at this difficult moment. Let socialists of all countries follow this example, let them everywhere,   in parliament, in their press, at their public meetings, express their indignation and demand a review of the case of the Social-Democratic group in the Second Duma.


[1] This report was published by the Executive Committee of the International Socialist Bureau as a supplement to Circular No. 24. The article and material relating to the affair of the Social-Democratic deputies to the Second Duma were published in German, French, and English in the Bulletin périodique du Bureau Socialiste International, No. 8. After the publication of Lenin’s report the campaign abroad for the release of the Social-Democratic deputies was intensified. In an editorial appearing in No. 8 of the Bolshevik newspaper Rabochaya Gazeta it was stated that “following the call of the International Socialist Bureau, which sent all parties the report on this matter by Comrade Lenin, our Party representative on the I.S.B., the campaign was considerably   intensified by Social-Democratic parties abroad. All Social-Democratic deputies in Germany, France, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Austria, etc., made public protests.”

The heading to the document has been provided by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U.

[2] L’Avenir (The Future)—a liberal-bourgeois Russian newspaper which was published in Paris from October 22, 1911 to January 4, 1914 (N.S.) and edited by V. L. Burtsev (some items were published in French). Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries also contributed to its columns.

[3] Fifty-five members of the Social-Democratic group in the Second Duma were tried, and two of them died shortly after, during imprisonment. It was for this reason that 53 deputies were referred to at the sitting of the Duma held on October 17 (30), 1911.

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