V. I.   Lenin

Fresh Data on German Political Parties

Published: Rabochaya Pravda No. 3 July 16, 1913. Signed: V. I.. Published according to the Rabochaya Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 268-271.
Translated: The Late George Hanna
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.README

The German statistical office has published some interesting data on the 1912 parliamentary (Reichstag) elections. It is particularly instructive to compare the strength of the various parties in the towns and villages.

German statistics, like those of most European states, regard all inhabited centres having less than 2,000 inhabitants as villages, unlike Russia which still retains the senseless, arbitrary distinction made by officials and policemen, by which certain inhabited centres are “called” towns irrespective of the number of inhabitants.

German statistics regard inhabited centres with a population of between 2,000 and 10,000 as small towns and those with 10,000 or more inhabitants as big towns.

There proves to be a strikingly regular correlation between the progressive nature of a party (“progressive” in the broadest economic and political sense) and the increase in the strength of that party in the towns and bigger inhabited centres in general.

Four groups of political parties in Germany stand out clearly in this respect:

1) Social-Democrats—the only completely progressive and, in the best sense of the word, “popular” mass party of wage-workers;

2) Progressive People’s Party—a petty-bourgeois democratic party, something like our Trudoviks[1] (only under conditions of a fully bourgeois and not a feudal society);

3) National Liberals—the party of the big bourgeoisie, the German Octobrist-Cadet party;

4) all conservative parties, Black-Hundred landowners, clericals, reactionary urban petty bourgeois and peasants   (anti-Semites, “the Centre”, i.e., Catholics, conservatives proper, Poles, and so on).

Share of the Votes (% %) Obtained by Parties
Progressists National
All conser-
vative par-
and unde-
In villages . . . . . . . 19.0 8.8 12.8 58.6 0.8 100.0
In small towns . . . . 35.8 12.1 15.0 36.4 0.7 100.0
In big towns . . . . . 49.3 15.6 13.8 20.0 1.3 100.0
  All Germany . . . . 34.8 12.3 13.6 38.3 1.0 100.0

Universal franchise exists in Germany. The above table shows clearly that the German village, the German peasantry (like those of allEuropean, constitutional, civilised countries) are still, to the present day, almost completely en slaved by the landowners and priests, spiritually and politically.

In the German villages almost three-fifths (58.6%) of the votes go to the conservative, i.e., landowner and priest, parties! Everywhere in Europe the peasant was revolutionary when he fought against the feudals, the serf-owners and landowners. Once the peasant had obtained his freedom and a little piece of land he, as a general rule, made his peace with the landowners and priests and became a reactionary.

The development of capitalism, however, begins in its turn to pull the peasant out of the embraces of reaction and leads him to the Social-Democrats. In 1912, the German Social-Democrats had already obtained almost one-fifth (19%) of all rural votes.

The political picture in the German countryside today is, therefore, the following. One-fifth for the Social-Democrats, one-fifth for the more or less “liberal” bourgeoisie and three fifths for the landowners and priests. There is still quite a lot to be done for the political education of the country side. By ruining the small peasant and putting the screw on him, capitalism, one might say, is knocking reactionary prejudices out of his head by force.

There is already a different picture in the small towns; the Social-Democrats have overtaken the liberal bourgeoisie (35.8% of the votes as compared with 27%) but have not quite caught up with the conservatives, who obtained 36.4% of the votes. The small towns are the stronghold of the urban petty bourgeoisie engaged mainly in commerce and manufacturing. The petty bourgeoisie waver most of all and do not give a stable majority either to the conservatives, or to the socialists or to the liberal bourgeoisie.

in the big towns there has been a Social-Democratic victory. The Social-Democrats have a following of half the population (49.3% of the votes), as many as the conservatives and liberals combined (15.6+13.8+20=49.4%). The conservatives here are supported by only one-fifth of the population, the liberal bourgeoisie by three-tenths and the Social-Democrats by a half. If we were to take the biggest towns there would be an incomparably wider predominance of Social-Democracy.

We know that towns in all modern states and even in Russia grow more rapidly than villages, that the towns are centres of the economic, political and spiritual life of the people and are the chief vehicles of progress. The predominance of Social-Democracy in the towns gives a clear demonstration of its significance as the party of the advanced masses.

Of Germany’s population of 65,000,000 only 25,900,000 people were living in rural areas in 1912; 12,300,000 were living in small towns and 26,800,000 in the bigger towns. In recent decades, since Germany became a completely capitalist state, relatively free and possessing a stable constitution and universal franchise, the urban population has grown more rapidly than that of the countryside. In 1882, only 18,900,000 of the 45,000,000 population lived in towns, i.e., 41.8%; in 1895 the total population was 52,000,000, the urban population 26,000,000, i.e., 49.8%; in 1907 out of the 62,000,000 population, 36,000,000 lived in towns, i.e., 58.1%. The population of the biggest towns, those with 100,000 or more inhabitants, was in the same years 3,000,000 7,000,000 and 12,000,000 respectively, i.e., 7.4%, 13.6% and 19.1% of the total population. In the course of twenty-five years the entire population has increased by 36.5%, the   urban population by 89.6% and the population of the biggest towns by 254.4%.

Finally, it is interesting to note that the purely bourgeois parties in present-day bourgeois Germany are supported by a minority of the population. In 1912, the Social-Democrats obtained in the whole of Germany more than one-third of the total number of votes cast (34.8%), the conservatives (mainly the landowners and priests) somewhat less than two-fifths (38.3%), and all the liberal-bourgeois parties only one-quarter of the votes cast (25.9%).

How is this to be explained? Why is it that in bourgeois Germany, in a country in which capitalism is developing with particular rapidity, more than sixty years after the revolution (the bourgeois revolution of 1848), landowners’ and clerical parties and not purely bourgeois political parties predominate?

The key to the explanation of this phenomenon was provided by Karl Marx as far back as 1848—the German bourgeoisie, frightened of the independence of the proletariat and seeing that the workers were using democratic institutions for themselves and against the capitalists, turned its back on democracy, shamefully betrayed the liberty that it had previously defended and began to fawn upon the landowners and clericals.[2] We know that since 1005 the Russian bourgeoisie has been developing these slavish political inclinations and these slavish political ideas more zealously than the German bourgeoisie.


[1] Trudoviks, Trudovik group—also known as the peasant group; a group of petty-bourgeois democrats formed in April 1906 by peasant deputies to the First Duma. They demanded the abolition of all social-estate and national restrictions, democratisation of the rural and urban local government bodies and universal suffrage   in elections to the State Duma. Their agrarian programme was based on the Narodnik principle of equalitarian land tenure and envisaged the formation of a national land fund to include state, crown and monastery lands, as well as private holdings exceeding the area that could be tilled by the owner’s family, with payment of compensation for land alienated from private owners. The implementation of the land reform was to he entrusted to local peasant committees.

[2] Lenin refers here to an article in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung “The Berlin Debates on the Revolution” (“Die Berliner Debatte \"uber die Revolution”) (Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Werke, Bd. V, Dietz Verlag, Berlin, 1959).

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