Th. Rothstein 1907

The New Duma

Source: Justice, 09 March 1907, p. 6;
Transcribed: Ted Crawford,
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). 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.

The elections to the second Duma have, as anticipated, resulted in a striking victory for the Opposition. Out of 492 members elected up to February 28 (the total membership of the Duma being 524), only 112, or 23 per out., can be classified as adherents of the present autocratic regime; the rest, with the exception of 64 deputies whose political views are either shifty or unknown, belong to the ranks of the avowed enemies of the autocracy. Thus, the seven months of unparalleled oppression and all the electoral chicanery on the part of the authorities have proved unavailing against the determined will of the Russian nation. The autocracy has once more, and in a still more pronounced fashion, received a vote of no confidence from the people it professes to govern.

But “no confidence” is a feeble term to describe the nature of the verdict returned by the people against the Government. What distinguishes the results of the present elections from those of the first is the grand victory of the Socialists, or, as it is euphemistically called, the Extreme Left, over the Liberals or the Centre parties. The latter only number 91, or 18 per cent., of whom 87 are Constitutional Democrats; while the former number 127, or 26 per cent. There are besides 97 other deputies who, while declaring themselves as “more to the Left than the Constitutional Democrats,” have not yet, for some reason or other, pronounced themselves in favour of any particular party. It is supposed that about 30 of this group may yet, after all, join the Constitutional Democrats, while the rest will join some party of the Extreme Left. If this should prove correct, the Liberal Centre will number about 115, while the Extreme Left will amount to over 180. This means that the bulk of the opposition belong not to the Liberal, but to the Socialist and revolutionary ranks—a fact which changes the popular verdict, as given at the elections in the teeth of the Governmental terror, from one of no confidence to that of active hostility. It will be observed that out of the 127 deputies belonging to the Extreme Left, nearly one-half, that is, 62, are avowed Social-Democrats, who are and were elected as such, while the Revolutionary Socialists only number 34, the Toil Group 24., and seven belong to a new organisation called Socialist-Populists. Thus, by the irony of fate, the Russian Duma will contain the strongest Social-Democratic Party in the world.

Now, what is the meaning of these figures? It would be ridiculous to contend that the bulk of the Russian nation are Socialists or Social-Democrats. It would be safe to assert that outside the town proletariat, which is overwhelmingly Social-Democratic, and partly intellectuals, there are no Socialists in Russia. The peasants, who constitute about 60 per cent. of the entire population, are certainly (whatever the revolutionary Socialists may fancy) not Socialists, either conscious or non-conscious, likewise the petty bourgeoisie of the towns and the bulk of the professional classes. What, then, is the significance of the above figures?” Their significance is this—that having been cruelly deceived in their hopes by the experience of the first Duma, and having been shown by the subsequent action of the powers that be the futility of expecting any concessions from the ruling autocracy, the Russian nation has come to the conclusion that only men of determined views and determined action, who will not bargain with the Government nor indulge in “parliamentary illusions,” will be able to carry on the fight for freedom in an effective fashion. In other words, the people of Russia do no longer, as last year, lay their hopes on the Duma as a constitutional legislative body, but regard it as an instrument of war for the overthrow of the autocracy and the realisation of the people’s freedom. This is an enormous step in advance, considering that it has chiefly been made by the peasantry, and it constitutes almost as important a landmark in the development of the Russian, revolution as the first entrance on the revolutionary stage of the town proletariat. Of course, one is inclined to qualify to some extent this statement, seeing that also, the Liberals have been returned in good force. But as against that one must bear in mind the iniquitous electoral system and the brutal electioneering methods of the Government, as well as the fact that the Constitutional Democrats were not allowed to legalise their existence and activity, and were thus able to pass in the eyes of many an elector as a sort of revolutionary party. One is tempted to think, on the face of the actual facts, that had there been universal, direct and equal suffrage, and complete freedom of elections, the Liberals would have practically been wiped out, not less than the reactionaries.

On this very day as we pen these words the new Duma is assembled in its first meeting. It is impossible to say what the developments may be. The Opposition, so far as the programme of, and the feelings between the parties composing it, is not at all united. The Liberals have conceived the curious, and under the circumstances, reactionary idea that Russia has entered the stage of constitutional government, and that the autocracy and bureaucracy, can, and will, be overcome by Parliamentary methods. They have openly declared themselves anti revolutionary, both in their aims and their means, and their leader, M. Miliukoff, has publicly ridiculed, as a “red rag,” the proletarian which has nowhere, with the exception of France, been so much soaked in blood as in Russia and under which those historical battles were fought and won, which now enable the very Constitutional Democrats to speak of Constitutional government. During the elections their behaviour was simply unspeakable, and they were not ashamed to insinuate that the Socialists were playing the game of the Black Hundreds. On the other side, the Government does not exhibit the slightest symptom of its preparedness to yield to the will of the nation. It meets the people’s representatives at it would meet the delegates to a Congress of the Chambers of Commerce, by delegating an official to open the Duma, and it has announced its attention to lay before them at once a number of “important” Bills, such as one for the regulation of the fishing industry, another for the compensation of persons assisting in the extinction of forest fires, a third for the regulation of the use of rivers and canals in the Crimea, and so forth. And the Duma itself, in the official writ issued for its summons, is not called the second Duma at all, but “the Duma session of March 5.” One could see from this, with what a deep contempt the Dome is regarded by the autocracy and its servants, and, inferentially, how stupidly utopian are the Liberals in talking of constitutional government. If we add to this that the reign of lawlessness continues in full swing; that the other day 17 more persons were executed in one day at Riga, reaching a total of 790 persons executed by the drum-head courts-martial since their establishment in September last; that the suppression of newspapers and other publications continues unabated; that martial law of various degrees now reigns all over the country; that wholesale searches and arrests are still proceeding in the biggest towns as well as in the villages that the Black Hundreds still enjoy the patronage of the highest administrators and even of Ministers, and are murdering and robbing right and left without let or hindrance; that personal convicted of enormous bribery and defalcations are still kept at their posts as Ministers and Governors of provinces—if we add all this and plenty more of a similar kind, we may well pause before giving utterance to any hope for the smooth and successful working of the Duma. Sooner or later, it would seem, the Duma will come once more into conflict with the Government, and the deputies will be sent about their business.

It is with a view to avoiding any such early dissolution, that the Extreme Left will have to shape its tactics. It was sheer malice and calumny on the part of the Liberal to have asserted during the elections that the Socialists are going to the Duma with he view of “blowing it up from inside.” Nothing could be further from the interests and the intentions of the Socialists. They want to make as much use of the Duma for purposes of political education as possible, and without in the least hesitating to attack the Government or to criticise the Liberals, they will do their utmost to avoid bringing matters to a head. In this their aim will correspond almost exactly with that of the Liberals, the only, but the all-essential difference between them being, that while the latter will try to compromise with the Government, so as to assure what they call Parliamentary government, the Socialists will, on the contrary, not abate a single iota from their demands in order that the nation may see clearly the reactionary character of both the Government and of the bourgeois parties. The debates on the Budget will, no doubt, afford as excellent opportunity for it, as well as the question of a general amnesty.

It is a thousand pities that not one of the prominent Socialists have been returned to the Duma on account of their “underground position.” This will make the “Cadets” intellectually predominant in the Assembly. Nevertheless, even the first Duma has demonstrated that before the sound and revolutionary proletarian standpoint even the best erudition in the World has to strike its sails, and we may be sure that the second Duma will exhibit the strength of the socialist position in a still more striking light. Let us, then, all wish our comrades and friends in Russia success in their valiant fight for the emancipation of the world from the vilest despotism of modern times