V. I.   Lenin

The Fourth Duma Election Campaign and the Tasks of the Revolutionary Social-Democrats

Published: Sotsial-Demokrat No. 26, May 8 (April 25), 1912. Published according to the text in Sotsial-Demokrat.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 17-21.
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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The political strikes and the first demonstrations over the Lena shootings[2] show that the revolutionary movement among the masses of workers in Russia is growing. This thickening of the revolutionary atmosphere casts a vivid light on the tasks of the Party and its role in the election campaign.

The crisis is growing in a new situation. The reactionary Duma,[3] which provides the landlords with power, the bourgeoisie with an arena for making deals, and the proletariat with a small platform, is a necessary factor in this situation. We need this platform, we need the election campaign, for our revolutionary work among the masses. We need the illegal Party to direct all this work as a whole—in the Taurida Palace, as well as in Kazanskaya Square,[4] at workers’ mass meetings, during strikes, at district meetings of worker Social-Democrats, and at open trade union meetings. Only the hopelessly blind can fail even now to see the utter absurdity and perniciousness for the working class of otzovism and liquidationism,[5] those products of decay and disintegration during the period of the triumph of counter-revolution. The example of the Narodniks has shown us clearly the scandalous zero one gets as the result of adding the liquidationism of the “Trudoviks”, as well as of the legally functioning writers of Russkoye Bogatstvo[6] and Sovremennik,[7] to the otzovism of the Socialist-Revolutionary “party”.

Let us now sum up the facts brought to light during the pre-election mobilisation of political forces. Three camps   stand out clearly: (1) The Rights—from Purishkevich to Guchkov—are pro-government. The Black-Hundred[8] landlord and the conservative merchant are heart and soul for the government. (2) The liberal bourgeois—the “Progressists” and the Cadets, along with groups of various non-Russians—are against the government and against the revolution. The counter-revolutionary nature of the liberals is one of the main features of the present historical juncture. Whoever does not see this counter-revolutionary nature of the “cultured” bourgeoisie has forgotten everything and learned nothing, and takes the name of democrat, to say nothing of socialist, in vain. As it happens, the Trudoviks and “our” liquidators see poorly, and understand things poorly! (3) The democratic camp, in which only the revolutionary Social-Democrats, the anti-liquidationists, united and organised, have firmly and dearly unfurled their own banner, the banner of revolution. The Trudoviks and our liquidators are vacillating between the liberals and the democrats, between legal opposition and revolution.

The class roots which brought about the division between the first two camps are clear. But the liberals have succeeded in leading astray many people, from Vodovozov to Dan, as to the class roots which divided the second camp from the third. The liberal “strategy”, naively blurted out by Blank in Zaprosy Zhizni,[9] is very simple: the Cadets are the centre of the opposition, the thill-horse; the outrunners (the “flanks”) are the Progressists on the right, and the Trudoviks and the liquidators on the left. It is on this “troika” that the Milyukovs, in their role of “responsible opposition”, hope to “ride” to triumph.

The hegemony of the liberals in the Russian emancipation movement has always meant, and will always mean, defeat for this movement. The liberals manoeuvre between the monarchy of the Purishkeviches and the revolution of the workers and peasants, betraying the latter at every serious juncture. The task of the revolution is to use the liberals’ fight against the government and to neutralise their vacillations and treachery.

The policy of the liberals is to scare Purishkevich and Romanov a little with the prospect of revolution, in order to share power with them and jointly suppress the revolution.   And it is the class position of the bourgeoisie that deter mines this policy. Hence the Cadets’ cheap “democracy” and their actual fusion with the most moderate “Progressists” of the type of Yefremov, Lvov, Ryabushinsky and Co.

The tactics of the proletarian Party should be to use the fight between the liberals and the Purishkeviches over the division of power—without in any way allowing “faith” in the liberals to take hold among the people—in order to develop, intensify and reinforce the revolutionary onslaught of the masses, which overthrows the monarchy and entirely wipes out the Purishkeviches and Romanovs. At the elections, its tactics should be to unite the democrats against the Rights and against the Cadets by “using” the liberals’ fight against the Rights in cases of a second ballot, in the press and at meetings. Hence the necessity for a revolutionary platform that even now goes beyond the bounds of “legality”. Hence the slogan of a republic—as against the liberals’ “constitutional” slogans, slogans of a “Rasputin-Treshchenkov constitution”.[10] Our task is to train an army of champions of the revolution everywhere, always, in all forms of work, in every field of activity, at every turn of events which may be forced on us by a victory of reaction, the treachery of the liberals, the protraction of the crisis, etc.

Look at the Trudoviks. They are Narodnik liquidators sans phrases. “We are revolutionaries,” Mr. Vodovozov “hints”, “but—we can’t go against Article 129,[11]” he adds. A hundred years after Herzen’s birth, the “party” of the peasant millions is unable to publish even a sheet—even a hectographed one!—in defiance of Article 129!! While gravitating towards a bloc “first of all” with the Social-Democrats, the Trudoviks are unable to say clearly that the Cadets are counter-revolutionary, to lay the foundations for a republican peasant party. Yet that is exactly how the question stands after the lessons of 1905–07 and 1908–11: either fight for a republic, or lick the boots of Purishkevich and grovel under the whips of Markov and Romanov. There is no other choice for the peasants.

Look at the liquidators. No matter how much the Martynovs, Martovs and Co. shift and shuffle, any conscientious and sensible reader will recognise that R—kov[12] summed up   their views when he said: “Let there be no illusion. What is in the making is the triumph of a very moderate bourgeois progressism.” The objective meaning of this winged phrase is the following: revolution is an illusion, the real thing is to support the “Progressists”. Surely anyone who does not deliberately close his eyes must see now that it is precisely this that the Dans and Martovs are saying, in slightly different words, when they issue the slogan: “Wrest the Duma [the Fourth Duma, a landlord-ridden Duma!][1] from the hands of the reactionaries”? Or when they make, again and again, the slip of referring to two camps? Or when they shout, “Do not frustrate” the progressive work of the liberal bourgeois? Or when they fight against a “Left bloc”? Or when, writing in Zhivoye Dyelo,[13] they smugly snap their fingers at “the literature published abroad which nobody reads”? Or when they actually content themselves with a legal platform and legal attempts at organisation? Or when they form “initiating groups”[14] of liquidators, thus breaking with the revolutionary R.S.D.L.P.? Is it not clear that this is also the tune sung by the Levitskys, who are lending philosophical depth to the liberal ideas about the struggle for right, by the Nevedomskys, who have lately “revised” Dobrolyubov’s[15] ideas backwards—from democracy to liberalism—and by the Smirnovs, who are making eyes at “progressism”, and by all the other knights of Nasha Zarya[16] and Zhivoye Dyelo?

Actually the democrats and the Social-Democrats, even if they had wanted to, would never have been able to “frustrate” a victory of the “Progressists” among the landlords and bourgeois! All this is nothing but idle talk. This is not where the serious differences lie. Nor is this what constitutes the distinction between a liberal and a Social-Democratic labour policy. To “support” the Progressists on the ground that their “victories” “bring the cultured bourgeois nearer to power” is a liberal labour policy.

We Social-Democrats regard a “victory” of the Progressists as an indirect expression of a democratic upswing. It is necessary to use the skirmishes between the Progressists and   the Rights—the mere slogan of support for the Progressists is no good. Our job is to promote the democratic upswing, to foster the new revolutionary democracy that is growing in a new way in the new Russia. Unless it succeeds in gathering strength and winning in spite of the liberals, no “triumph” of the Progressists and the Cadets in the elections will bring about any serious change in the actual situation in Russia.

The democratic upswing is an indisputable fact now. It is progressing with greater difficulty, at a slower pace and along a more arduous path than we should like, but it is progressing nonetheless. It is this that we must “support” and promote by our election work and every other kind of activity. Our task is to organise the revolutionary democrats—by ruthless criticism of Narodnik liquidationism and Narodnik otzovism to forge a republican peasant party—but first of all and above all else to clean “our own house” of liquidationism and otzovism, intensify our revolutionary Social-Democratic work among the proletariat and strength en the illegal Social-Democratic Labour Party. The out come of the growing revolutionary crisis does not depend on us; it depends on a thousand different causes, on the revolution in Asia and on socialism in Europe. But it does depend on us to conduct consistent and steady work among the masses in the spirit of Marxism, and only this kind of work is never done in vain.


[1] Interpolations in square brackets (within passages quoted by Lenin) have been introduced by Lenin, unless otherwise indicated.—Ed.

[2] This refers to the shooting of unarmed workers in the Lena gold-fields, Siberia, on April 4 (17), 1912.

The gold-fields were owned by British Capitalists, and their partners were Russian capitalists, members of the tsar’s family, and tsarist dignitaries. The owners made a profit of about 7,000,000 rubles annual y. The gold-fields being situated in a region of taiga forests, almost 2,000 kilometres from the Siberian Railway, the Capitalists and their helpers committed the worst excesses: they paid the workers niggardly wages for their back-breaking toil, supplied them with rotten food, and outraged the workers’ wives and children. Unable to bear the oppression and outrages any longer, the workers went on strike early in March 1912. The strike was led by the Bolshevik group formed in the gold-fields in the autumn of 1911. On March 4 (17), 1912, a central strike committee was elected with the Bolsheviks occupying a leading position on it. The demands to be presented to the management included: an eight-hour working day, a 10 to 30 per cent wage increase, abolition of fines, organisation of medical aid, improvement of food and living quarters, etc. The Board of Lenzoto (Lena Gold-Mining Company) rejected these demands and decided to dismiss the strikers, stop supplying them with food on credit and evict them from the gold-fields barracks, which meant dooming the workers and their families to death by starvation The workers did not allow the police to carry out the evictions. The strikers held their ground and risisted all attempts at provocation and intimidation. The strike was peaceful and organised.

At the instance of influential British and Russian shareholders of the company, the tsarist authorities decided to use arms against the strikers in order to intimidate workers in Russia. During the night of April 3-4 (16-17) some of the members of the Central Strike Committee were arrested. In reply, on April 4 (17) about 3,000 workers marched to the Nadezhda Mine to lodge a complaint against the unlawful actions of the authorities and hand the Procurator a petition for the release of those arrested. Captain Treshchenkov of the gendarmerie ordered his men to open fire, with the result that 270 workers were killed and 250 injured.

The news of the bloody drama on the Lena aroused the furious indignation of the workers throughout Russia. Protest demonstrations, meetings and strikes took place all over the country. The Social-Democratic Duma group interpellated the government on   the Lena shootings. The insolent reply of the tsar’s Minister Makarov—“So it was and so it will be!”—added to the workers’ indignation. Strikes protesting against the Lena shootings involved about 300,000 workers. They merged with the May Day strikes in which about 400,000 workers took part. “The Lena shootings,” Lenin pointed out, “led to the revolutionary temper of the masses developing into a revolutionary upswing of the masses.”

[3] The Duma was a representative assembly which the tsarist government was forced to convene as a result of the revolutionary events of 1905. Nominally it was a legislative body but it had no real authority. Elections to the Duma were neither direct, nor equal, nor universal. In the case of the working classes, as well as of the non-Russian nationalities of the country, the suffrage was greatly curtailed, a considerable section of the workers and peasants lacking any voting rights. Under the electoral law of December 11 (24), 1905, one landlord vote was made equivalent to three votes cast by representatives of the urban bourgeoisie, 15 peasant votes and 45 votes cast by workers.

The First and Second Dumas (April–July 1906 and February–June 1907, respectively) were dissolved by the tsarist government. On June 3, 1907, the government carried out a coup d’état and issued a new electoral law which still further curtailed the rights of the workers, peasants and urban petty bourgeoisie and guaranteed the complete supremacy of the reactionary bloc of the land lords and big capitalists in the Third and Fourth Dumas (1907-12 and 1912-17).

[4] The Taurida (Tavrichesky) Palace was the building in which the Duma held its sessions from 1906 to 1917.

Kazanskaya Square—in front of the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg—was the scene of frequent revolutionary demonstrations.

[5] See pp. 151–52 of this volume.

[6] Russkoye Bogatstvo (Russian Wealth)—a monthly published in St. Petersburg from 1876 to the middle of 1918. In the early 1890s it became a liberal Narodnik organ. In 1906 it virtually became the mouthpiece of the semi-Cadet Popular Socialist Party.

[7] Sovremennik (The Contemporary)—a literary and political monthly published in St. Petersburg from 1911 to 1915, around which ware grouped Menshevik liquidators, Socialist-Revolutionaries, Popular Socialists and Left liberals. It had no links with the masses of the workers. In 1914 Lenin described its trend as a hybrid of Narodism and Marxism.

[8] Black Hundreds—monarchist bands which the tsarist police formed to combat the revolutionary movement. They murdered revolutionaries,   attacked progressive intellectuals and organised anti-Jewish pogroms.

[9] Zaprosy Zhizni (Demands of Life)—a weekly published in St. Petersburg from 1909 to 1912. Contributors to it were Cadets, Popular Socialists and Menshevik liquidators. Lenin called it a “liquidationist-Trudovik-Vekhi” periodical.

[10] Rasputin, G. Y. (1872-1916)—an adventurer who enjoyed great influence at the Court of Nicholas II. “Rasputinism” most strikingly expressed the obscurantism, fanaticism and moral decay typical of the ruling upper stratum of tsarist Russia.

Treshchenkov, N. V. (1875-1915)—Captain of Gendarmerie, one of those who led the shooting of the Lena gold-miners in April 1912.

[11] This refers to Article 129 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Empire, which envisaged severe punishment, including penal servitude, for public actions and dissemination of writings against the tsarist system.

[12] R–kov, N. A. Rozhkov—historian, Social-Democrat, one of the Menshevik liquidators.

[13] Zhivoye Dyelo (Vital Cause)—a legal daily newspaper published by the Menshevik liquidators in St. Petersburg in 1912. Sixteen issues appeared.

[14] Lenin is referring to the “initiating groups of Social-Democratic functionaries of the open working-class movement” which the Menshevik liquidators formed from the end of 1910 onwards as a counter to the illegal Party organisations. The liquidators regarded those groups as nuclei of the new, broad legal party they were advocating a party within the framework of the June Third, Stolypin regime. They succeeded in forming “initiating groups” in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Yekaterinoslav and Konstantinovka (Donets coal-field) in the shape of small groups of intellectuals dissociated from the working class. These groups opposed the strike movement and revolutionary demonstrations of the workers, and fought against the Bolsheviks in the Fourth Duma elections. The guiding centres of the “initiating groups” were Golos Sotsial-Demokrata, which the liquidators published abroad, and Nasha Zarya and Dyelo Zhizni, legal liquidationist organs published in Russia.

[15] Dobrolyubov, N. A. (1836-1861)—outstanding Russian revolutionary democrat, literary critic and materialist philosopher, one of the forerunners of Russian Social-Democracy.

[16] Nasha Zarya (Our Dawn)—a legal monthly published by the Menshevik liquidators in St. Petersburg from 1910 to 1914. It was the centre for the liquidationist movement in Russia.

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