V. I.   Lenin

The Working Class and its “Parliamentary” Representatives

Published: Pravda No. 191, December 12, 1912. Signed: V. I.. Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 437-438.
Translated: Stepan Apresyan
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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This is not the first time that Russia’s class-conscious workers have had to deal with a collective body of representatives of the working class in the Duma. And each time such a body was formed in the Second, Third or Fourth Duma (we do not mention the First, which most of the Social-Democrats boycotted), there was a discrepancy between the views and trend of the majority of Social-Democrats and those of their representatives in the Duma.

There are exact data on this discrepancy as regards the Second Duma. In the spring of 1907 it was established officially and beyond question what were the views, tendencies and trends or groups predominating in the Social-Democratic Party and those in the Social-Democratic Duma group.

It was found that, by sending one delegate from every 500 worker Social-Democrats, the Bolsheviks at that time had 105 delegates, the Mensheviks 97 and those not belonging to either group 4.[1]

The Bolsheviks had an obvious superiority.

Among the non-Russian Social-Democrats, the Poles had 44 delegates, the Bundists 57 and the Letts 29. As opponents of opportunism, Menshevism and the Bund strongly predominated among the Letts at that time, the ratio of the “trends” among the non-Russians in general was similar to that among the “Russian’s Social-Democrats.

Yet in the Duma group of the Social-Democrats at that time there were 36 Mensheviks and 18 Bolsheviks, with 12 Mensheviks and 11 Bolsheviks among the deputies elected by the worker curia.[2] It is obvious that the Mensheviks predominated.

Thus the balance of the “trends” in the Duma group was not the same as in the Social-Democratic movement but the direct opposite.

Is that an accident?

No. As a general rule, in all countries of the world the parliamentary representatives of the workers’ parties have a more opportunist composition than that of the workers’ parties themselves. The reason is easy to see: firstly, all the electoral systems of the bourgeois countries, even the most democratic, in practice restrict suffrage for the workers, either by making it conditional on age (in Russia it has to be 25 years), or on residence and permanence of work (six months in Russia), etc. And it is the young, more politically-conscious and resolute sections of the proletariat that these restrictions generally hit hardest of all.

Secondly, under any suffrage in bourgeois society, the non-proletarian elements of the workers’ parties—officials of workers’ unions, small proprietors, office employees, and particularly the “intelligentsia”—specialise more readily in the “parliamentary” profession (owing to their occupations, social standing, training, etc.).

What are the conclusions to be drawn from this fact, and how did matters stand in the Third and Fourth Dumas compared with the Second? We shall devote our next article to these questions.


[1] Lenin is referring to the composition of the delegates to the Fifth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

[2] Lenin is referring to the composition of the Social-Democratic group in the Second Duma.

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