V. I.   Lenin

Results of the Elections



The Election Slogans Tested by Experience

An election campaign is of outstanding interest to any intelligent political leader because it furnishes objective data on the views and sentiments, and consequently interests, of the different classes of society. Elections to a representative body are comparable in this respect to a census of the population, for they provide political statistics. To be sure, these statistics may be good (in the case of universal, etc., suffrage) or bad (in the case of elections to our parliament, if one may call it that). To be sure, one must learn to criticise these statistics—just as any statistics—and to use them critically. To be sure, these statistics should be taken in connection with all social statistics in general; and strike statistics, for example, will often turn out—for those who are not affected with the disease of parliamentary cretinism—to be a hundred times more serious and profound than election statistics.

Despite all these reservations, it is beyond question that elections supply objective data. Testing subjective wishes, sentiments and views by taking into account the vote of the mass of the population representing different classes should always be of value to a politician who is at all worthy of   the name. The struggle of parties—in practice, before the electorate, and with the returns summed up—invariably furnishes data serving to test our conception of the balance of the social forces in the country and of the significance of particular “slogans”.

It is from this standpoint that we shall try to look at the election returns.

Regarding political statistics, the chief thing that needs to be said here is the obvious worthlessness of the greater part of them owing to the shameless application of administrative “measures”: “clarifications”, pressure, arrests, deportation, and so on and so forth—without limit. Mr. Cherevanin, for example, who in Nasha Zarya No. 9–10 sums up data on several hundred electors in different curias, is compelled to admit that it “would be ridiculous” to take the drop in the percentage of opposition electors (compared with the elections to the Third Duma) in the second urban curia and in the peasant curia as proof of a swing to the right. The only curia in respect of which the Mymretsovs, Khvostovs, Tolmachovs, Muratovs and Co. were unable to carry out any rigging was the first urban curia. That curia showed an increase in the proportion of “opposition” electors from 56 to 67 per cent, with that of the Octobrists drop ping from 20 to 12 per cent, and that of the Rights from 24 to 21 per cent.

But while “clarifications” nullified the significance of election statistics regarding the electors, and while the democratic classes, excluded altogether from those privileged by the June Third system, personally experienced all the delights of those clarifications, nevertheless the liberals’ attitude to the democrats became manifest in the elections. On this point objective data came to light which make it possible to test, by the experience of life, what the different “trends” thought and said prior to the elections.

The question of the liberals’ attitude to the democrats is by no means “only a party” question, i.e., one that is important only in terms of one of the strictly party lines. It is the most important question for anyone striving for political liberty in Russia. It is a question of how to achieve, after all, the object of the common aspirations of all that is decent and honest in Russia.

The Marxists, in starting on the election campaign of 1912, put in the very forefront the slogans of consistent democracy as a counterpoise to liberal labour policy. These slogans can be tested in two ways: firstly, by the view and experience of other countries and, secondly, by the experience of the campaign of 1912. Whether the Marxists’ slogans are correct or not should now be evident from the relation ship which has actually come into being between liberals and democrats. What makes this test of slogans objective is that it is not we who tested them but the masses, and not merely the masses in general, but our opponents in particular.

Did the relations between liberals and democrats during and as a result of the elections develop as the Marxists expected or as the liberals expected or as the liquidators expected?

To get at the root of this matter, let us first recall those “expectations”. At the very beginning of 1912, when the question of elections had only just been raised and when the Cadets (at their conference) unfurled the banner of a single opposition (i.e., two camps) and the permissibility of blocs with the Left Octobrists, the working-class press raised the question of slogans through the articles of Martov and Dan in Zhivoye Dyelo, of F. L—ko[4] and others in Zvezda (Nos. 11 [47] and 24 [60], and in Zhivoye Dyelo Nos. 2, 3 and 8).

Martov put forward the slogan: “Dislodge reaction from its Duma positions”, and Dan, “Wrest the Duma from the hands of the reactionaries”. Martov and Dan accused Zvezda of threatening the liberals and of striving to extort Duma seats from the liberals.

Three positions stood out clearly:

(1) The Cadets were for a single opposition (i.e., for two camps) and for the permission of blocs with the Left Octobrists.

(2) The liquidators favoured the slogan: “Wrest the Duma from the bands of the reactionaries” and facilitate the Cadets’ and Progressists’ “advance to power” (Martov in Zhivoye Dyelo No. 2). No extorting of seats from the liberals for the democrats.

(3) The Marxists were against the slogan: “Wrest the Duma from the hands of the reactionaries”, for that would   mean wresting the landlord from the hands of the reactionaries. “The practical task that faces us at the elections is by no means to ‘dislodge reaction from its Duma positions’, but to strengthen the forces of democracy in general and of working-class democracy in particular” (F. L—ko in Zvezda No. 11 [47]).[1] We must threaten the liberals, extort seats from them, and go to war against them, undaunted by at tempts at intimidation through cries about the Black-Hundred danger (same author, No. 24 [60][2] ). The liberals “advance to power” only when the democrats win despite the vacillation of the liberals.

The divergency between the Marxists and the liquidators is most profound and irreconcilable, however easy various good souls may think a verbal reconciliation of the irreconcilable. “Wrest the Duma from the hands of the reactionaries” is a whole range of ideas, a whole system of policy that objectively means transferring hegemony to the liberals. “Wrest the democratic movement from the hands of the liberals” is the opposite system of policy, one based on the fact that only a democratic movement which has ceased to be dependent on the liberals is capable of actually undermining reaction.

Now see what became in reality of the fight which was so much talked about before it began.

Let us take Mr. V. Levitsky of Nasha Zarya (No. 9–10) as a witness to the results of the fight—certainly no one will suspect this witness of partiality towards Zvezda and Pravda.

Here is how this witness assesses the results of the fight in the second urban curia, the only curia, as is known, where there was at least a remote resemblance to “European” elections and where it is possible, at least to some slight degree, to sum up the results of the “encounters” between liberals and democrats.

The witness speaks of as many as 63 actions by the Social-Democrats, including 5 cases of forced renunciation of nomination, 5 agreements with other parties and 53 independent actions. Of these 53 cases, 4 were in four big cities and 49 during the election of electors.

In 9 cases out of these 49, it was not known whom the Social-Democrats were fighting against, in three it was against the Rights (whom they defeated in all three cases), in one against the Trudoviks (the Social-Democrats winning), and in the other 36 cases, against the liberals (21 victories of the Social-Democrats and 15 defeats).

Picking out the Russian liberals, we have 21 cases in which the Social-Democrats fought them. Here are the results:

  S. D. Winners,
S. D.
number of
S. D. versus Cadets . . . . 7 8 15
” ” other liberals[3] . . . . . . . . . . 4 2 6
Total . . . . 11 10 21

And so, the chief opponents of the Social-Democrats were liberals (36 cases against 3); the Social-Democrats suffered their chief defeats at the hands of the Cadets.

Furthermore, out of five cases of agreement two were general agreements of the opposition against the Rights; in three “it may be a question of a Left bloc against the Cadets” (my italics; Nasha Zarya No. 9–10, p. 98). In other words, the number of agreements was less than one-tenth of the total number of actions. Sixty per cent of the agreements were against the Cadets.

Lastly, the returns in four big cities were the following:

  Votes cast (maximum figures)
Moscow Riga
For Cadets . . . . . . . 19,376 20,310 3,754 5,517
” Social-Democrats . . 7,686 9,035 4,583 4,570
” Octobrists . . . . 4,547 2,030 3,674
” Rights . . . . . . . 1,990 1,073 272
” Trudoviks . . . . 1,075

And so, in-all the four big cities the Social-Democrats fought against the Cadets, who in one case won in the second ballot with help from the Octobrists (considering these to include the candidate of the Baltic Constitutional Party).

The conclusions drawn by the witness himself are:

The Cadet monopoly of representation of the urban democrats is coming to an end. The Social-Democrats’ immediate task in this field is to win representation from the liberals in all the five cities represented independently. The psychological [??] and historical [what about economic?] preconditions for this—a ‘swing to the left’ of the democratic voter, the untenability of the Cadet policy, and the reawakening of proletarian initiative—already exist” (Nasha Zarya, op. cit., p. 97).


[1] See present edition, Vol. 17, p. 490.—Ed.

[2] Ibid., p. 561.—Ed.

[3] Progressists and Cadets together with Progressists or Trudoviks —Lenin

[4] F. L–ko—a pseudonym of Lenin.

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