V. I.   Lenin

Concerning Certain Speeches by Workers’ Deputies[3]

Written: Written in November 1912
Published: First published in Lenin’s Collected Works, Second and Third editions, Vol. XVI, 1930. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 413-419.
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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What are the basic ideas that should underlie the first speech of a workers’ spokesman in the Duma?

Naturally, the workers will look forward to the first speech with particular eagerness and particular attention. Naturally, it is in the first speech that they expect to find the important and fundamental thing, a concise exposition of the view taken on issues that are of especial concern to everyone and come particularly into the forefront in the country’s policies in general and in the practice of the working-class movement (both political and economic) in particular.

Among these issues are the following:

(1) Continuity of the activity of the Social-Democratic group in the Fourth Duma. Continuity implies the preservation of an inseparable connection with the former Social-Democratic groups of all the former Dumas, it being particularly necessary to stress the connection with the Social-Democratic group in the Second Duma—in view of the well-known attack which the counter-revolution made upon it.

It is important to lay stress on continuity, for, unlike the bourgeois parties, the worker democrats see something integral and common in their work in the First, Second, Third and Fourth Dumas, and will not let themselves be distracted by any turn in events (or by any development like the coup d’état of June 3) from fulfilling their tasks, from pursuing their invariable aims.

(2) The second thesis which should go into the first speech of a workers’ deputy is socialism. Strictly speaking, it   consists of two subjects. One is the fact that Russia’s Social-Democratic Party is a contingent of the international army of the socialist proletariat. That, in fact, is exactly what Pokrovsky said in the Third Duma (see his declaration in the verbatim reports, p. 328 of the official publication, Seventh Sitting, November 16, 1907). It is, of course, absolutely indispensable to make this point.

But there is another point which is highly important in our day. It is a reference to the present situation and the tasks of socialism throughout the world. What are the characteristics of this situation? (a) An extreme aggravation of the struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie (high cost of living, mass strikes, the imperialism of the Powers, their fierce competition over markets and their nearness to war), and (b) the nearness of the realisation of socialism. The working class of the world is fighting not for recognition of its right to have a socialist party, but for power, and for the organisation of society along new lines. It is highly important to say so from the Duma platform, to tell the workers of Russia about the beginning of the great battles for socialism in Europe and America, about the nearness of the triumph (inevitable triumph) of socialism in the civilised world.

(3) The third thesis concerns the Balkan war and Russia’s international position and foreign policy.

It is impossible to omit this subject, which is the most topical. It may be subdivided into the following questions:

(a) The Balkan war. The slogan of a Balkan federal republic should also be proclaimed by the Russian workers’ deputy. Against Slav-Turkish enmity. For freedom and equal rights for all the peoples of the Balkans.

(b) Against the interference of other Powers in the Balkan war. It is absolutely necessary to side with the demonstration for peace which took place in Basle, at the International Socialist Congress.[4] War against war! Against all interference! For peace! Such are the slogans of the workers.

(c) Against the foreign policy of the Russian Government in general, with particular mention of the “lust” to seize (and of the seizure already begun) the Bosphorus, Turkish Armenia, Persia, Mongolia.


(d) Against the nationalism of the government, with reference to the oppressed nationalities: Finland, Poland, the Ukraine, the Jews, etc. It is highly important to put forward in precise terms the slogan of the political self-determination of all nationalities, in contrast to all hedging (such as only “equality”).

(e) Against liberal nationalism, which is not so crude but is particularly harmful because of its hypocrisy and its “refined” deception of the people. What are the signs of this liberal (Progressist-Cadet) nationalism? Chauvinist speeches about the tasks of the “Slavs”, speeches about the tasks of Russia as a “Great Power”, speeches about Russia reaching an agreement with Britain and France so as to be able to plunder other countries.

(4) The fourth thesis is the political position of Russia. The essential thing here is to describe the existing tyranny and lack of rights, and reveal the compelling necessity of political liberty.

Special note should be made here of:

(a) The necessity of mentioning the prisons—Kutomara, Algachi, etc.[5]

(b) A reference to the rigging of elections, Bonapartist methods, the fact that the government is no longer trusted even by those classes (the landlords and the bourgeoisie) on which the coup d’état of June 3 counted.

The priests were made to vote against their conscience.

The Duma has moved to the right, while the country has moved to the left.

(c) It is particularly important to state correctly the relationship between the notorious liquidationist slogan of “freedom of association” and the objectives of political liberty in general. It is highly important to point out that freedom of the press, association, assembly and strikes is absolutely indispensable to the workers, but that it is precisely in order to bring it about that we must realise the inseparable connection between it and the general foundations of political liberty, a radical change in the entire political system. Not the liberal utopia of freedom of association under the June Third regime, but a struggle for freedom in general, and for freedom of association in   particular, against this regime all along the line, against the foundations of this regime.

(5) Fifth thesis: the intolerable plight of the peasantry. The starvation of 30 million peasants in 1911. The ruin and impoverishment of the countryside. The government “land distribution system” only makes things worse. Financial prosperity is so much tinsel, a pretence of prosperity achieved by extorting dues and befuddling the people with drink. Even the modest land Bill of the Right-wing peasants (the “forty-three peasants”) submitted to the Third Duma[6] has been shelved. The peasants need deliverance from the oppression of the landlords and of landlordism.

(6) Sixth thesis: three camps in the elections to the Fourth Duma, and three camps in the country:

(a) The government camp. It is impotent. Rigs elections.

(b) The liberal camp. It is highly important to point out, if only very briefly, the counter-revolutionary nature of the liberals, who are against a new revolution. One may quote word for word Gredeskul’s statement which Pravda reprinted in its issue No. 85 (August 8).[1] “No second popular movement [in other words, no second revolution] was needed but merely quiet, persevering and confident constitutional work”. These were Gredeskul’s exact words, and Rech published them.

Liberal hopes of constitutional reform with the foundations of the present system retained, and without a broad movement of the people, are utopia.

(c) The third camp, the democrats. It is led by the working class. One may say, speaking of the past in the third person, what was said even by Golos Moskvy, namely, that the working class advanced three slogans during the elections: (1) a democratic republic; (2) an eight-hour working day; (3) confiscation of all the landed estates in favour of the peasantry.

(7) Seventh thesis: a reference to the political movement and strikes in 1912.

(a) It is highly important to point out that the number of political strikers rose to a million. Resurgence of the entire emancipation movement.

(b) It is highly important to stress that the workers by their political strikes set themselves objectives affecting the whole people, that they did not raise particular problems but problems affecting the whole people.

(c) It is necessary to point out that it is the connection between political and economic strikes that lends strength and vitality to the movement.

(d) Mention the workers’ protest against the execution of sailors.

(8) The eighth thesis, an important one following from the whole of the foregoing and closely linked with it, is the hegemony of the proletariat, its guiding role, its role as leader. It leads the whole people, the entire democratic movement. It demands freedom and leads into the battle for freedom. It sets an example, provides a model. It raises morale. It arouses a new mood.

(9) The ninth and final thesis: recapitulation and summary. It should be said, speaking of the class-conscious workers in the third person, that they are “unshakably loyal” to three principles: first, socialism; second, “the principles of the old, battle-tested Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party”—the workers are loyal to it. This fact should be conveyed; third, the workers are loyal to “their republican convictions”. It is not a question of an appeal or slogan, but of loyalty to one’s convictions. (There exist legal republican parties in a number of monarchies—Britain, Sweden, Italy, Belgium and other countries.)

P.S. The question may also arise of the need to put for ward separately “freedom of association”. It should be borne in mind that the liquidators advocate under this flag the liberal demand for a constitutional reform while keeping intact the foundations of the June Third—[2]


[1] See pp. 254–55 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] The manuscript breaks off at this point.—Ed.

[3] Lenin’s theses “Concerning Certain Speeches by Workers’ Deputies” formed the basis of a declaration by the Social-Democratic group in the Fourth Duma. The manuscript has survived only in part.

The adoption of the declaration was preceded by a bitter fight of the Bolshevik deputies against the seven Menshevik members of the group. A. Y. Badayev, a Bolshevik member of the group, wrote in his recollections: “Our group devoted a number of meetings to the declaration, which it began to discuss before the Duma opened. The debate was exceedingly heated and often lasted till late into the night. On either side not only deputies but also Party functionaries then in St. Petersburg took part in drafting the declaration.... After a long and stubborn struggle and a number of heated clashes with the Mensheviks we at last had all the fundamental demands of the Bolsheviks incorporated in the declaration.” (A. Badayev, The Bolsheviks in the Duma. Recollections, Moscow, 1954, p. 67, Russ. ed.)

In accordance with Lenin’s directives, the declaration included nearly all the main provisions of the minimum programme. Nevertheless, the Mensheviks succeeded in getting the demand for cultural national autonomy included in the declaration. On December 7 (20), 1912, the declaration was read in the Duma.

On December 8 (21), 1912, Pravda carried a verbatim report of the Duma sitting together with the text of the declaration. This Pravda issue was confiscated for publishing the declaration, and its editor brought to trial.

[4] The Extraordinary International Socialist Congress of the Second International took place in Basle on November 24–25, 1912. On the opening day there was a large anti-war demonstration and an international protest meeting against the war. On November 25 the Congress unanimously adopted a manifesto calling on the workers to use the organisation and might of the proletariat for a revolutionary struggle against the war danger.

[5] This refers to the unrest among the political prisoners In the Kutomara and Algachi prisons. It began in August 1912 owing to the Transbaikal Military Governor’s order Introducing military rules of treatment of political prisoners in Nerchinsk penal-servitude prisons. In protest, the political prisoners at Kutomara declared a fifteen-day hunger strike. The prison administration retaliated by mass torture. Some of the prisoners, driven to despair, committed suicide. Similar events took place in Algachi prison. The summer and autumn of 1912 saw unrest among political prisoners elsewhere in Russia. In response to these developments there were protest strikes of workers in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Warsaw and Riga. On behalf of the Social-Democratic and the Trudovik groups in the Fourth Duma, an interpellation was made concerning the outrages against the prisoners. Discussion was postponed by a majority vote but was never resumed.

[6] This refers to the land Bill which was Introduced by (non-party and Right-wing) peasant deputies in the Third Duma on May 10 (23), 1908. The Bill provided for the compulsory alienation, at average market prices, of landed estates not tilled by their owners them selves. For carrying out the land reform, it was proposed that local land committees should be set up to be elected by a general vote. Lenin appraised the Bill in his article “The Agrarian Debates in the Third Duma”

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