J. V. Stalin

The Eelction Campaign in St. Petersburg and the Mensheviks

February 18 1907

Source : Works, Vol. 2, 1907 - 1913
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2008
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2008). 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.

Nowhere was the election campaign fought with such intensity as it was in St. Petersburg. Nowhere were there such conflicts between the parties as in St. Petersburg. Social-Democrats, Narodniks, Cadets, Black Hundreds, Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in the Social-Democratic movement, Trudoviks, 1 Socialist-Revolutionaries and Popular Socialists among the Narodniks, Left and Right Cadets in the Cadet Party—all waged a fierce struggle. . . .

On the other hand, nowhere was the complexion of the various parties revealed so clearly as it was in St. Petersburg. It could not have been otherwise. An election campaign is real action—and the nature of parties can be ascertained only in action. It is obvious that the more fiercely the struggle was waged, the more distinctly was the complexion of the respective combatants bound to be revealed.

In this respect, the conduct of the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks during the election campaign is extremely interesting.

You probably remember what the Mensheviks said. Even before the elections they had said that a Constituent Assembly and a democratic republic were an unnecessary burden, that what was needed first of all was a Duma and a Cadet ministry and, consequently, what was needed was an election agreement with the Cadets. If that were not achieved, they said, the Black Hundreds would win. Here is what the Menshevik leader Cherevanin wrote on the eve of the elections:

"It would be absurd and insane for the proletariat to try, as some people propose, jointly with the peasantry, to enter into a struggle against both the government and the bourgeoisie for a sovereign and popular Constituent Assembly" (see Nashe Delo, No. 1).

Plekhanov, another Menshevik leader, seconding Che-revanin, also rejected a popular Constituent Assembly and proposed instead a "sovereign Duma," which was to become a "common platform" for the Cadets and the Social-Democrats (see Tovarishch, November 24, 1906).

And the well-known Menshevik Vasilyev said more frankly that the class struggle "at the present moment would be suicidal and criminal...," that the various classes and groups must "abandon all ‘the very best of programmes' for a time and merge in one constitutional party..." (see Tovarishch, December 17, 1906).

That is what the Mensheviks said.

The Bolsheviks, from the very beginning, condemned that position of the Mensheviks. They said that it would be unseemly for Socialists to enter into an agreement with the Cadets, that the Socialists must come out independently in the election campaign. In the first stage of the election, agreements are permissible only in exceptional cases, and then only with parties whose slogans of the day are: a popular Constituent Assembly, confiscation of all the land, an eight-hour day, etc. The Cadets, however, reject all this. The "Black-Hundred danger" was invented by the liberals to frighten certain naive people. The Black Hundreds cannot "capture" the Duma. The Mensheviks only repeat the words of the liberals when they talk about the "Black-Hundred danger." But there is a "Cadet danger," and it is a real danger. It is our duty to rally all the revolutionary elements around ourselves and fight the Cadets, who are concluding an alliance with the reaction against the revolution. We must fight simultaneously on two fronts: against the reaction and against the liberal bourgeoisie and its champions.

That is what the Bolsheviks said.

The opening day of the St. Petersburg Social-Democratic conference 2 drew near. Here, at this conference, two sets of tactics were to be presented to the proletariat: the tactics of agreement with the Cadets, and the tactics of fighting the Cadets. . . . Now, at this conference, the proletariat was to appraise everything the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks had said hitherto. But the Menshe-viks had a presentiment that defeat awaited them, they had a foreboding that the conference would condemn their tactics, and they, therefore, resolved to leave the conference, to break with Social-Democracy. For the sake of an agreement with the Cadets the Mensheviks started a split. They wanted to get "their men" into the Duma by bargaining with the Cadets.

The Bolsheviks emphatically condemned that spineless behaviour. They proved by figures that there was no "Black-Hundred danger." They ruthlessly criticised the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Trudoviks and openly called upon them to rally around the proletariat against the counter-revolution and the Cadets.

While the Bolsheviks were uniting the revolutionary elements around the proletariat, while they were unde-viatingly pursuing the uncompromising tactics of the proletariat, the Mensheviks were negotiating with the Cadets behind the backs of the workers.

Meanwhile, the Cadets were gradually inclining to the right. Stolypin invited the Cadet leader Milyukov to see him "for negotiations." The Cadets unanimously instructed Milyukov to negotiate with the reaction "on behalf of the Party." Obviously, the Cadets wanted to conclude an agreement with the reaction against the revolution. At the same time, another Cadet leader, Struve, openly stated that "the Cadets want an agreement with the monarch with the object of obtaining a constitution" (see Rech, 3 January 18, 1907). It was evident that the Cadets were entering into an alliance with the reaction.

Nevertheless, the Mensheviks entered into negotiations with the Cadets, they still sought an alliance with them. Poor fellows! They had no idea that by entering into an agreement with the Cadets they were entering into an agreement with the reaction!

Meanwhile, the discussion meetings, sanctioned by the authorities, commenced. Here, at these meetings, it became definitely clear that the "Black-Hundred danger" was a myth, that the fight was chiefly between the Cadets and the Social-Democrats, and that whoever entered into an agreement with the Cadets was betraying Social-Democracy. The Mensheviks were no longer to be seen at the meetings; they tried to intercede for the Cadets two or three times, but they glaringly disgraced themselves and kept away. The Mensheviks—the hangers-on of the Cadets—were already discredited. Only the Bolsheviks and the Cadets remained in the discussion arena. The meetings were taken up entirely with the struggle between them. The Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Trudo-viks declined to negotiate with the Cadets. The Popular Socialists wavered. The Bolsheviks became the leaders in the election campaign.

Where were the Mensheviks in the meantime?

They were negotiating with the Cadets for three seats in the Duma. It may sound incredible, but it is a fact; and it is our duty openly to tell the truth.

The Bolsheviks declared: Down with the hegemony of the Cadets!

The Mensheviks, however, rejected this slogan, and thereby submitted to the hegemony of the Cadets and dragged at their tail.

Meanwhile, elections took place in the workers' curia. It turned out that in the Menshevik districts the workers had nearly everywhere elected Socialist-Revolutionaries as their voters' delegates. "We cannot vote for those who compromise with the Cadets; after all the Socialist-Revolutionaries are better than they are,"— that is what the workers said. The workers called the Social-Democrats liberals, and preferred to go with the bourgeois-democrats, with the Socialist-Revolutionaries! That is what the opportunism of the Mensheviks led to!

The Bolsheviks pursued their uncompromising tactics and called upon all the revolutionary elements to unite around the proletariat. The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Trudoviks openly associated themselves with the Bolshevik slogan: Down with the hegemony of the Cadets! The Popular Socialists broke with the Cadets. It became obvious to everybody that the agreement between the

Social-Democrats on the one hand and the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Trudoviks on the other would under no circumstances split the vote to such a degree as to let the Black Hundreds win. Either the Cadets or the extreme Left would win—the "Black-Hundred danger" was a myth.

Meanwhile, the Cadets broke off negotiations with the Mensheviks. Evidently an agreement failed to come off. The Bolsheviks, however, concluded an agreement with the Socialist-Revolutionaries, Trudoviks and Popular Socialists, isolated the Cadets, and launched a general offensive against the reaction and the Cadets. Three election lists were put up in St. Petersburg: the Black Hundreds, the Cadets and the extreme Left. Thus, the Bolsheviks' forecast that there would be three lists came true in spite of the Mensheviks.

Rejected by the proletariat, left empty-handed by the Cadets, made a laughing-stock of by the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Trudoviks and disgraced by history, the Mensheviks laid down their arms and voted for the list of the extreme Left, against the Cadets. The Vyborg District Committee of the Mensheviks openly stated that the Mensheviks would vote for the extreme Left, against the Cadets.

And that meant that the Mensheviks repudiated the existence of a "Black-Hundred danger," that they rejected an agreement with the Cadets and backed the Bolshevik slogan—Down with the hegemony of the Cadets!

It meant also that the Mensheviks rejected their own tactics and openly recognised the Bolshevik tactics.

And lastly, it meant that the Mensheviks had stopped dragging at the tail of the Cadets and now dragged at the tail of the Bolsheviks.

Finally, the elections took place and it turned out that not a single one of the Black Hundreds was elected in St. Petersburg!

That is how the correctness of the Bolshevik tactics was proved in St. Petersburg.

That is how the Mensheviks sustained defeat.


Chveni Tskhovreba (Our Life), 4 No. 1, February 18, 1907


1. Trudoviks or Group of Toil—a group of petty-bourgeois democratsformed in April 1906, consisting of the peasant deputiesin the First State Duma (see J. V. Stalin, Works, Vol. 1,p. 266, Note 77).Popular Socialists—a petty-bourgeois organisation whichsplit off from the Right wing of the Socialist-RevolutionaryParty in 1906. Their political demands did not go beyonda constitutional monarchy. Lenin called them "Social-Cadets" and "Socialist-Revolutionary Mensheviks."

2. This refers to the Social-Democratic conference held in St. Petersburg on January 6, 1907, to discuss the tactics to be pursued in the elections to the Second State Duma. The conference was attended by 40 Bolsheviks and 31 Mensheviks. The Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., on which the Mensheviks were in the majority, proposed that the conference should divide up into a city and gubernia conference. The Mensheviks counted on gaining a larger number of votes in this way. The conference rejected this proposal as being contrary to the Party Rules. In protest against this the Menshevik delegates left the meeting. The remaining delegates resolved to continue the conference. After hearing a report by V. I. Lenin, the conference expressed itself against concluding election agreements with the Cadets on the ground that such agreements would not only be impermissible in principle, but also positively harmful politically. It adopted a resolution "to bring up forthwith the extremely important question for St. Petersburg of agreements with the revolutionary democracy." The Menshevik representatives of the Central Committee who were present at the conference declared that the decisions of the conference were not binding on the St. Petersburg Social-Democratic organisation, and the Mensheviks who left the conference advocated in the press the conclusion of a bloc with the Cadets.

3. Rech (Speech)—a daily newspaper, the central organ of the Cadet Party, published in St. Petersburg from February 1906 to October 26, 1917.

4. Chveni Tskhovreba (Our Life)—a Georgian daily Bolshevik newspaper published legally in Tiflis under the direction of J V. Stalin; it began publication on February 18, 1907. In a l l , thirteen numbers were issued. I t was suppressed on March 6, 1907, for its "extremist trend."