V. I.   Lenin

The Significance of the St. Petersburg Elections

Published: Nevskaya Zvezda No. 15, July 1, 1912. Signed: F. F.. Published according to the text in Nevskaya Zvezda.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 136-142.
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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According to newspaper reports, the question of the date when the Fourth Duma should be convened and of the time when elections to it should be held has aroused some doubts among the ruling circles. Some were in favour of postponing the convening of the Duma until January, while others declared for October. Now the question is said to have been decided in favour of the latter opinion.

Thus the elections are quite near at hand—a mere seven to nine weeks. We must take steps to redouble our efforts with regard to all aspects of our pre-election work.

I should like to deal in this article with a special question, which, however, has acquired very great general importance for the worker democrats. I mean the role of the St. Petersburg elections.

The elections in St. Petersburg’s second urban curia are the focal point of the entire Fourth Duma election campaign.

Only in St. Petersburg is there a tolerably well organised working-class press, one which, for all the fierce persecution it is subjected to, for all the fines and the arrests of its editors, for all the instability of its position, and for all that it is kept down by the censorship, is able to reflect, to some little degree, the views of worker democrats.

In the absence of a daily press, the elections remain an obscure matter, and their significance in terms of the political enlightenment of the masses is reduced by half, if not more.

For this reason, the St. Petersburg elections acquire the significance of a model of the election campaign which worker democrats have to undertake in the incredibly difficult   conditions of Russian reality. Nowhere else are the workers in a position to hold an election campaign visible to every one. To be sure, the elections in the worker curia are highly important, but there the workers cannot come up against the other classes of the population, and therefore cannot present on an adequate scale the national demands, and the views on the tasks involved in a common policy, which have deen worked out by the progressive, proletarian democrats, so that they may serve all democrats in general as a guide.

In St. Petersburg the elections are direct. Hence the pre-election struggle here may take much more definite, more distinct and more partisan forms than elsewhere. The other big cities would have been as important as St. Petersburg. but administrative pressure in the provinces is still so much stronger than in the capital that it is difficult for worker democrats to force their way through, to get a hearing.

Lastly, in St. Petersburg the struggle in the second curia has to take place between the liberals and the democrats. The Cadets consider the second curia to be their domain. St. Petersburg is represented by Milyukov, Rodichev and Kutler.

Obviously, the fact that a fairly large number of democratic voters are represented by the liberals can by no means be considered normal. The elections to the Second Duma showed that Cadet “domination” among the democratic urban voters is very far from being solid. In St. Petersburg itself, the “Left bloc” in the Second Duma elections, i.e., the bloc of worker and bourgeois democrats (Narodniks), not only could, but certainly would, have won, if at that time Mensheviks like Dan and Co. had not split the workers’ election campaign and thereby given rise, among the Narodniks, to wavering and vacillations that were exceedingly harmful to the success of the cause. One has only to recall that in the Second Duma elections even the “Socialist Revolutionaries” followed the Mensheviks’ lead to the last minute, defending their bloc with the Cadets!

The electoral law now in force permits of a second ballot, so that no blocs are required, or permissible, at the first stage.

The struggle in St. Petersburg will be between the worker democrats and the liberals. The Narodniks will hardly be strong enough to act independently—they have been “liquidating” themselves much too zealously by following our liquidators’ line. The worker democrats are therefore almost certain to be supported by the bourgeois democrats (Trudoviks and Narodniks), if not at the first stage of the election, then at any rate when a second ballot is taken.

The liberals have their leader, Mr. Milyukov, from St. Petersburg. They have had a large following so far. The funds which the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie supplies them with, the propaganda weapons in the form of two daily newspapers, and an organisation which is virtually tolerated and all but legalised de facto, all afford the Cadets tremendous advantages.

On the workers’ side are the mass of the workers, consistent and sincere democracy, energy and devotion to the cause of socialism and working-class democracy. The workers can win if they rely on these forces and if they have a workers’ daily newspaper. The workers’ struggle for seats in the Duma for St. Petersburg is undoubtedly acquiring a vast and country-wide significance in the entire Fourth Duma election campaign.

Those who like to talk of “unity” of the whole opposition—from the Progressists and Cadets to the warily dodging liquidator Martov and the crudely simple-minded Prokopovich and Akimov—are all at pains to evade the issue of the St. Petersburg elections or to leave it out. They bypass the political centre but readily make their way into what may be called the political backwoods. They speak volubly, fervently and eloquently of what will be opportune at the second stage of the elections, i.e., when the principal, the chief, the decisive, part of the election campaign is over, and they “are eloquently silent” about St. Petersburg, which has been won by the Cadets and which has to be won back from them, has to be restored to the democrats.

There were no democratic deputies for St. Petersburg under the law of December 11,1905, nor under that of June 3, 1907,[2] so that “restored” would seem to be an unsuitable term. But St. Petersburg belongs to the democrats by virtue of the entire course of the entire emancipation movement in     Russia, and at a certain stage of its development even the monstrously high dam of the June Third electoral law will be unable to stem the “democratic flood”.

The majority of the voters in the second curia undoubtedly come from the democratic sections of the population. The Cadets induce them to follow their lead by simply deceiving them, by making themselves, a liberal-monarchist bourgeois party, out to be democrats. This kind of deceit has been, and is, practised by all liberals in the world in elections to every sort of parliament. And the workers’ parties in all countries gauge their success by, among other things, the extent to which they succeed in freeing petty-bourgeois democrats from liberal influence.

The Russian Marxists, too, must set themselves this task clearly, specifically, and firmly. That is why, with regard to the big cities, they have said plainly in their well-known January decisions that blocs there are permissible, in view of the known absence of a Black-Hundred danger, only with the democrats, against the liberals.[1] This decision “takes the bull by the horns”. It gives a straightforward answer to one of the most important questions of election tactics. It determines the spirit, the trend, and the character of the entire election campaign.

On the other hand, those liquidators who like to talk of the Cadets as of “representatives of the “urban democracy are committing a grave error. This kind of talk distorts matters by representing the liberals’ election victories over the democrats, and the liberals’ election tricks played on democratic voters, as proof of the Cadets’ “democracy”. As though Europe did not know of dozens of instances of anti-democratic parties for years keeping various democratic strata in leading strings, until real bourgeois democrats, but most often Social-Democrats, freed those strata from the influence of political parties that were alien to them in spirit.

The election struggle in St. Petersburg is a struggle for hegemony between the liberals and the worker democrats within the whole of Russia’s emancipation movement.

This exceptionally important role of the St. Petersburg elections leads us, incidentally, to two practical conclusions.   He to whom much is given, much shall be asked. The St. Petersburg workers will have to carry on the election campaign in the urban second curia on behalf of all the worker democrats of all Russia. It is a great and difficult task that they have to tackle. They must serve as a model. They must show the greatest initiative, energy and perseverance. They have done so in regard to the workers’ daily newspaper. At the elections, too, they must continue the work they have begun so splendidly.

The attention of all Russia is riveted on the election struggle in St. Petersburg. All Russia should also help St. Petersburg. Unless the St. Petersburg workers receive the most varied aid from all parts of Russia, they will be unable to overcome the “enemy” by themselves.


[1] See present edition, Vol. 17, pp. 469–70.—Ed.

[2] Lenin is referring to the law of December 11(24), 1905, on elections to the Duma. That law divided the electorate into four curias—landowner (landlords), urban (the bourgeoisie), peasant and worker. It granted the suffrage to persons who had reached the age of 25 years. With regard to the landowner and urban curias, it established property qualifications; in the peasant curia, only house holders had the right of suffrage, and in the worker curia, only per sons who had been working on their job for at least six months. The elections were unequal. One landlord vote equalled 3 capitalist, 15 peasant and 45 workers’ votes. The law debarred from elections women, agricultural workers, unskilled workers, handicrafts men, students and servicemen. In the case of the worker curia, the suffrage was granted only to those in factories employing at least fifty male workers. Factories employing over a thousand workers elected one delegate for every full thousand. Elections were multi stage: two-stage for the landlords and capitalists, three-stage for the workers and four-stage for the peasants.

For the law of June 3, 1907, see Note 43.

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