The Fourth Duma election campaign has confirmed the appraisal of the historical situation that Marxists have been giving since 1911. The gist of that appraisal is that the first period of the history of Russian counter-revolution is over. The second period has begun, a period characterised by the awakening of “light contingents” of bourgeois democrats (the student movement), by the aggressive economic, and still more non-economic, movement of the working class, and so on.
Economic depression, the vigorous offensive of the counter-revolution, the retreat and disintegration of the democratic forces, and the spate of renegade, Vekhi, liquidationist ideas in the “progressive camp”—these are the distinguishing features of the first period (1907–11). As for the second period (1911–12), it is distinguished—economically, politically and ideologically—by the opposite features: an upswing in industry, the inability of the counter-revolution to press forward its offensive with the same force or vigour as before, etc., and the revival of the democratic movement, which forced Vekhi, renegade, liquidationist sentiments to conceal themselves.
Such is the general background of the picture, which has to be borne in mind if the election campaign of 1912 is to be appraised accurately.
The most striking characteristic of the elections to the Fourth Duma is their systematic rigging by the government. It is not our aim here to sum up the results of “manipulating the elections”. This has been commented on quite sufficiently by the entire liberal and democratic press, and the Cadets’ detailed interpellation in the Fourth Duma speaks of the same thing. We shall probably be able to devote a special article to this question when the vast and increasing documentary evidence has been collated.
For the time being we shall only note the principal results of manipulating the elections, and the chief political significance of this manipulation.
The priesthood mobilised against the liberal and Octobrist landlords; repressive measures increased tenfold, and the law most unceremoniously violated to prejudice the rights of the bourgeois democracy in town and country; attempts made to wrest the worker curia from the Social-Democrats by the same means—these are the principal methods used in manipulating the 1912 elections. The purpose of this policy, which is reminiscent of Bonapartist policy, was to form a Right-wing and nationalist majority in the Duma, and this aim, as we know, has not been achieved. But we shall see below that the government has succeeded in “upholding” the former, Third-Duma, situation in our parliament, if we may call it that: there remain two possible majorities in the Fourth Duma, a Right-wing and Octobrist and an Octobrist-Cadet one.
The electoral law of June 3, 1907, “built” the state system of administration—and, indeed, not only of administration—on a bloc of the feudal landlords and the top strata of the bourgeoisie, with the first-named social element retaining a tremendous preponderance in this bloc, while above both elements stood a virtually uncurtailed old authority. There is no need now to say what the specific nature of that authority, brought into being by the age-long his tory of serfdom, etc., has been and still is. At all events, the shift in 1905, the collapse of the old state of affairs, and the open and powerful actions of the masses and classes, necessitated the search for an alliance with particular social forces.
The hopes pinned on the “uneducated” muzhik in 1905–06 (the Bulygin and Witte electoral laws) were shattered. The July Third system “banked on the strong”, on the landlords and the bourgeois big-wigs. But in the course of a mere five years the experience of the Third Duma has begun to break this gamble as well! It would be hard to imagine greater servility than the Octobrists showed in 1907-12, and yet even they did not prove servile enough. The old authority (the “bureaucracy”), which is closely akin to them in character, was unable to get along even with them. The bourgeois policy in the countryside (the law of November 9) and full assistance to capitalism were both directed by the very same Purishkeviches, and the results proved to be deplorable. Purishkevichism—refurbished, repaired, and freshened up with a new agrarian policy and a new system of representative institutions—continued to crush every thing and hamper progress.
The June Third system developed a crack. “Manipulation” of the elections became inevitable, just as Bonapartist methods are historically inevitable when there is no solid, durable and tested integral social basis, and when there is a need to manoeuvre among heterogeneous elements. If the democratic classes are powerless, or have been greatly weakened for temporary reasons, such methods may be attended by “success” over a number of years. But even the “classical” examples of Bismarck in the sixties of the last century, or of Napoleon III, bear witness that things do not work out without the most drastic changes (in Prussia it was a “revolution from above” and several exception ally successful wars).
 See Note 47.
 See Note 40.